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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 24, Number 3 March 2024 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Ann Skea's Bookshelf Arthur Turfa's Bookshelf C.A. Gray's Bookshelf
Carl Logan's Bookshelf Clint Travis' Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf
Jack Mason's Bookshelf John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf
Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf Mari Carlson's Bookshelf
Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf Michael Daigle's Bookshelf
Robin Friedman's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Ann Skea's Bookshelf

Ayesha Inoon
HQ Fiction
9781867267058, A$32.99 PB / $9.99 Kindle 320pp.

It was the silence that she noticed first. As they drove, Canberra unfolded in a series of stunning panoramas....

The streets were empty, rows of brick houses flanked by trees in the bright summer sunlight. The only signs of life were the flutter of clothes on a line, a child's toys in one of the yards.

It was beautiful and devastatingly quiet.

Zia, with her small daughter, has just flown into Australia from Colombo in Sri Lanka. She is used to being surrounded by family and friends, to 'the chatter of people', neighbours' TVs and radios, traffic noise, church bells, prayer calls from the mosques, and peddlers calling their wares: 'the sound track of the life she knew looped in her head'.

For many Asians arriving in Australia, even big cities like Sydney and Melbourne seem very quiet compared to what they are used to, especially at night, and especially in the suburbs where the streets are often deserted after 9pm. Canberra, so spacious and carefully planned, hardly seems like a city at all.

When Zia's husband first spoke of moving to another country, Zia dreamed of 'the luxuries and freedoms that life in 'the First World' promised'. She had joined Rashid on overseas business trips and had experienced the anonymity of being a stranger in a different culture. In New York, in jeans and a sweater that Rashid had bought her at Macy's, she had set out to explore 'wearing her new clothes like a new personality', no longer the Muslim woman in 'clothes that reached her ankles, shawls draped over her chest'.

Moving to Canberra, however, was a permanent move away from the instability in Sri Lanka, where the effects of the Tamil war against the government still lingered and where, more recently, there was a growing wave of 'anti-Muslim rhetoric'. 'Hardline Buddhist groups' were spreading rumours against Muslims. There had been 'talk of a riot on the outskirts of the city' and 'a group of men on motorbikes had thrown rocks at a Muslim owned shop', like the fabric shop owned by Zia's father, causing violent retaliation from Muslim youths.

'Several people injured and in hospital', Umar said. 'And you've heard the rumours? They're saying that Aras, the clothing chain owned by Muslims, is serving poisoned sweets to Buddhist women that will turn them sterile and prevent Sinhala population growth. Can you imagine?'

Rashid was worried, too, about the dengue spreading again in the city. The papers were full of advertisement trying to attract people with his qualifications and experience skill to Western counties and 'a new life'; and many of their friends who were young professionals had emigrated and now had Facebook profiles in which 'everything looked brighter and fresher' than it did in Colombo.

The first half of Untethered, 'Leaving', immerses the reader in Zia's life in Sri Lanka. It begins by describing her first meeting with Rashid and his parents and sister, as they consider an arranged marriage organized by their chosen matchmaker. Zia has only recently left school and, to please her loving parents, has reluctantly turned down a place at university so that she would 'meet these criteria' of Muslim families 'looking for a wife for their sons'. 'All the marriage proposal ads. in the newspapers stated that prospective bridegrooms preferred a 'fair, slim, pretty girl'' who (as Rashid's parents also require) is respectable and 'educated but not too educated'. Zia fits these criteria, except that she is not 'fair'. As her prospective mother-in-law tells her son - 'People will laugh if you marry her - when you could have any girl in Colombo' - and she keeps reminding him of other girls who are 'fairer', 'prettier' and 'with bigger dowries'.

Rashid, however, is fed-up with 'doing the rounds' to choose a wife, and after spending two years in a post-graduate scholarship at an American University and learning something of feminist thinking from his girl-friend there, he questions this 'male privilege'. 'I really liked her', he tells his mother after this first meeting and, firmly, 'It feels right'... She's the one'.

The elaborate wedding preparations, the meetings and negotiations between families, the care and love of Zia's parents and, ultimately, the marriage ceremony at the Hilton, attended by 'hundreds' of guests but in which, as Muslim custom decrees, Zia takes no active part, all are brought vividly to life.

Zia had begged her father to let the formal ceremony take place in the reception hall so that she could watch it:

The Imam's voice, low and melodious, floated across the room as he began the ceremony with, 'Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem'. In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful. He took Rashid's hand and placed it on her father's, asking Dada to repeat the words, first in Arabic then in Tamil, 'I give you my daughter, who has been in my guardianship, in marriage, with God as my witness'.

Then it was Rasid's turn, saying that he accepted the care and guardianship of Zia, that his mahr or bridal gift to her was a gold necklace. He stumbled over the Arabic and Tamil words that sounded less graceful in his unaccustomed tongue; like Zia, he too had grown up speaking English.

Watching the men in her life make promises on her behalf, Zia feels 'an irrevocable loss' at having been only an observer at 'this scared moment' in her life.

After the wedding, as is usual in their culture, Rashid moves into Zia's family home and, as they get to know each other, Zia learns of the occasional dark moods which sometimes possess him and seem to cut her off from him. With Rashid at work and her family's routines going on as usual around her, Zia finds that being a wife is not 'the full time job' she had imagined. Only when she becomes pregnant does she seem to find a purpose in life, and because Rashid is doing so well at work he rents an apartment in a brand new complex, employs a maid to do the cooking and cleaning, and they move away from Zia's family home. Rashid becomes more relaxed, but when a neighbour's five-year-old son dies of dengue fever, and the newspapers report that Buddhist mobs are becomes more dangerous, Zia, 'even in their bubble of wealth and safety' is anxious and they think seriously about emigrating.

After baby Farah is born, Rashid performs the customary ceremonies for her, and after watching a TV programme about Australia, Rashid decides:

'Their skilled migration programme is the most accessible right now. I think I'd get a visa quite easily.... And the healthcare and education would be world-class. Farah would have the benefit of all that. So will other children we'll have. It'll be a new life for us for our family.

Australia, Zia. That's where we'll go.'

Part 2 of the book, 'Settling in', presents a very different picture. Rashid has been in Canberra for months before Zia and Farah get there. Both he and Zia had been through an extensive vetting programme to prove that they were 'skilled, qualified, healthy' and 'would not, as the immigration forms described, be 'a burden to the Australian taxpayer', yet Rashid has not been able to find suitable work and has taken a job 'working shifts as a cleaner both day and night'.

Zia, at home alone with Farah in the little townhouse Rashid has rented, is desperately lonely, homesick, and shocked that Rashid has to do this work. As he tells her,

Almost all the jobs that were a fit for his skills were in the public service which required you to be an Australian citizen. He would probably have a better chance in Sydney or Melbourne but the condition of their permanent residency was that they would stay in Canberra for at least two years.

Rashid has become distant and moody, too, and Zia would feel his dark mood 'penetrating the very rooms they were in until she could hardy breathe'. She begins to wait for some sign of his mood when he gets home from work before approaching him. In Sri Lanka, she would turn to her family - only now, 'there was nowhere to retreat except within herself'.

In spite of the information Zia has been given about playgroups, clubs and migrant support groups, she is too nervous to talk to the Australians who respond to her phone calls, and feels 'defeated' by the thought of havaing to take two or three buses to get to any nearby suburb. Only when Farah starts preschool and makes a friend whose mother, Jenny, introduces herself, does she begin to relax.

Jenny's life as a single parent amazes Zia:

how had Jenny managed to raise Amy on her own? Wasn't it hard? Had she struggled?...

It was a life so far removed from her own experience and one that in the world she was from would be viewed as a calamity, inviting judgement and pity, a belief that this was a woman with questionable morals who had brought such hardship on herself. And yet, looking at Jenny as she walked beside her, so easy and free, so comfortable in her own skin, Zia felt only a mild stirring of envy...

Still looking for a suitable job, Rashid sees a recruiter. She recommends that he take his masters degree off his c.v. so he can try for an 'Admin. Role' rather than the sort of managerial role he had in Sri Lanka, and that he drop 'Ahmed' from his name and adopt one that sounds 'a bit more Anglo.'. Rashid angrily understands that 'the more foreign he seemed, the less likely employers were to hire him'. When he does get an interview for a job in a government department, he faces an intimidating panel of three people, plus a 'scribe', in a formal setting, which is nothing like the sort of interviews he is used to. He is so unprepared for the sort of questions they ask him that he knows he has 'made a fool of himself'. He tells Zia nothing about it when he gets home.

Two more sections of the book, 'Winter' and 'Spring' not only reflect Canberra's changes of season, but also the changes of circumstances for Zia and Rashid. 'Winter' is not wholly bleak. Rashid benefits from a chance encounter. Zia becomes more independent and revels in this, but the grief each of them suffer at the loss of a baby, sets them further apart.

Meanwhile, Jenny reads one of the fairy stories Zia has been writting for Farah and suggests that Zia could 'think of becoming a writer'. This is far from anything Zia has ever contemplated, but Jenny takes the story saying she would 'design it into a book and illustrate it for Amy and Farah'. When Zia tells Rashid, he is angry that she might think he cannot support the family, but Zia continues, secretly, to write. Much later, after a chance encounter with Pete, who helps her when she takes the wrong bus and ends up lost in an unfamiliar suburb, Zia begins to take driving lessons with him. She and Pete find things in common which draw them to each other. Eventually Zia, writes a moving story about their relationship (it is included in Untethered) and submits it for an assignment she has been given in a creative writing class she has joined.

Ayesha Inoon writes beautifully and knowledgably about the experience of leaving, as Zia does, 'everything and everybody they had know and loved all their lives to begin a new life in a different country'. Both Zia and Rashid struggle through the process of adapting to an unfamiliar culture, to different values and expectations, and eventually, to new opportunities, and a new way of living. Zia, in particular, learns independence and the strength to make hard decisions, yet this is a book full of warmth, life and love. It reflects, too, some of the best characteristics of Australians and Australian culture, but it also offers a thought-provoking view of government policies related to skilled migration. As Rashid concludes after seeing the recruiter:

Immigration, it seemed was the great equalizer - no matter where you came from or how you came to Australia, no matter who you were before, you had to let it all go and reinvent yourself.

He'd gone home filled with despair. He was never going to get the kind of job he wanted, [or was qualified to do] he was never going to return to the kind of role he was used to. Moving to Australia had been fatal to his career.

Even if he changed his name to Richard.

All The Unloved
Susan McCreery
Spineless Wonders
9781925052923, A$24.99 PB 126pp.

A few short sentences and a scene is set, a mood caught, a character revealed: all this is beautifully done. Then short passages are linked together like beads on a thread and a story is created.

'Seaview Terrace.

Bondi, 1994.

Two vacancies.

The mother's in books. He's a teacher, says Salvia. Respectable.

The daughter had a skateboard, says June. She'd better not ride it up and down the side path.'

Salvia and June, sisters, landladies. The girl with the skateboard, Jade, eleven years old, still learning about life.

It is Jade, more than any of the other characters, who threads this story together. 'Ann-mother' is strict and, in Jade's eyes, unloving. Jade likes Tony, Ann's school-teacher partner, but Tony and Ann argue.

'Tony does not shout. Tony does not hurl a jar of marmalade at the wall. Cold her.

Stay Tony. Please stay.'

Glen Masters, 'the quiet violinist' whose wife divorced him ('she wanted earthiness, she told him.... She wanted to be with people who were alive, not forever in their heads') has just moved in after living briefly in a cave on the Bondi cliffs. Glen plays for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but he is desperately insecure. 'Words' are 'dry lumpy things that get stuck in Glen's throat or come out ugly and misshapen'. Jade likes Glen but Ann does not:

'You keep telling me what to do. 'Don't talk to Mr. M. He's strange, don't trust him,' 'blah blah blah. You won't listen to anybody. No-one can tell you anything.

You need to grow up.


It's your fault you're on your own, shouts Jade. You drove Tony away. You'd drive any man away.

Jade's cheek stings from the slap for a good five minutes.'

Rebecca 'the fascinating' - the 'cat amongst the pigeons' - is a young author Ann is helping and who, for a while, moves into their apartment. Rebecca shows an interest in Jade and is especially kind to her, but also to Glen, Tony and Ann.

'I want you to meet her' Jade tells her friend Lara, 'she's really nice and a really great writer and really nice, and Lara says, 'Sound like you're in luuurve'.... 'Its' okay if you're gay, says Lara, pressing gum beneath her seat'.

Jade does not know what 'gay' means, but Gretel and Lucinda, who occupy another apartment in the block are gay.

Landlady June

Watches the two women walking side by side, shoulders brushing, as naturally as a man and a woman. In her day you never spoke of it, this invisible known. Sometimes she wonders what they do together, lesbians, then feels shame for even thinking about it.

Jade's passion is skateboarding, 'which is after all a sport', she tells herself after skipping school PE to go to the skate park. Her encounter there with Reynald, 'big and not nice, thinks he's god's gift', leads to a shocking and 'disgusting' kiss, but some time later Reynald 'slug-tongue' has become only a 'zoned out', 'blank-eyed' observer at the skate bowl, where Jade has becomes good enough to give tips to other young girls.

As summer goes on, Jade turns twelve; Rebecca's book 'is published to wide acclaim'; Gretel and Lucinda part amicably; Salvia and June discover that Tony's dad is an old friend and a romance blossoms; Glen agonises over his love for Rebecca; and Jade learns about stealing, about predatory males, and about the disappointments and pains of love, having seen the scarf Rebecca has given Glen and Glen's reactions, and then also seen her with Tony:

'Jade says miserably; I know about you and her.

Yes. Tony rests his arms on either side of the table, hands loose. I'm sorry Jade.

Do you love her?

No. It was... nothing. A non-thing.

Tony watches the girl in her suffering. Love can drive you to theft and who knows what else'

Things happen which the reader understand but Jade does not. Jealous of Glen, she nevertheless follows him, worries about him when she sees him at the cliff edge, and walks home with him. She falls out with Ann-mother about it:

'Go inside, Ann, tells Jade, and to Glen: I'd like you to stop associating with my daughter.

Judge and jury. Fury. She's got it all wrong, thinks Glen. Or has she


Very dark now. Back to the familiar. Perhaps his best days, in the cave. No-one to think bad things of him; no-one to draw him in to loving.'

Susan McCreery's tells her story in small, carefully crafted pieces. Nothing, even the most dramatic moment, is spelled out, but the overall effect is imaginatively satisfying. All her characters are simply revealed, and the complexities of love are explored through their interactions with each other. Each of them, at some point feels unloved (hence the title), but that is not the end of the story. 'If only love were simple', landlady June thinks:

'Love, what is love! She wants to tell them all. But what does she know of their stories and pain. Nothing. Only her own. Only now. Tomorrow it could all change'

Dr. Ann Skea, Reviewer

Arthur Turfa's Bookshelf

The Nature of Things Fragile
Peter Vertacnik
Criterion Books
9781641773652 $24.99 hc / $14.74 Kindle

This impressive prize-winning debut poetry collection resembles a cut gemstone. When one examines its many facets, it grows in brilliance and beauty. Through a wide variety of poetic forms, a world of change and loss is portrayed. However, that world, with its people and places, is more celebrated than mourned, more fondly remembered than lamented. Through a mixture of sonnets, villanelles, epigrams, and more forms (including free verse) the poet guides readers into a fascinating world of verse.

In the villanelle Teacher's Lament the issue of phones/devices in the classroom details the conflict between trying to teach people continually pay attention to a small screen instead of the lesson. "I've lost my students to the latest apps./We waste our days in class at loggerheads" (p. 43). A struggle this reviewer is glad to have in the past tense!

The teacher competing with electronic devices resembles the poet presenting portions of his or her life to people caught up in their own existences. However, Vertacnik does have something for them; his insights into what he experiences give a frame for readers to ponder their own losses and life changes. In other words, what he writes about is relatable.

Sleeping in Your Parents'' Bed captures the realization that an aging adult sleeps in the bed in which he sought shelter as a child. "...Your tired minds tries/to picture how they were,/who will never rest here again." (p. 23).The past is never far from the present. A familiar place takes on an unfamiliar role in the poet's life. Is it completion, destiny, or both? The reader may decide.

The epigram Malpractice examines with laser-like intensity the conundrum of absolution for sin before reception of the Eucharist. "Yet what humane physician would insist/only the healed ingest his medicine?" (p.36). Even without the spiritual underpinnings, the epigram raises the issue of whether or not perfection can ever be possible or sudden.

The formed poetry is impressive, and the free verse is as well. This is due to the poet's ability to convey strong and thought-provoking images with an economy of words in a variety of poetic structures.

The Diver illustrates this powerfully. The poem's subject is a critically ill man who appears to be diving into water, or into death, or into the next phase of life, whatever that is. Even though those at the bedside do not speak, much is said in a few lines, and the reader has much to ponder.

The variety of styles and images contained in this collection give the poet a strong foundation for future work. His future work, especially in a collection like this one, is eagerly awaited.

Arthur Turfa

C.A. Gray's Bookshelf

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
Peter Brown
Belknap Press
9780674729018, $30.99

This is a really terrific overview of some research with which I was unfamiliar.

I have always rather suspected that just reading through or listening to material is not very useful in terms of active learning. I got through med school by a combination of reading and highlighting, but also retyping my notes and then rereading those. Still not the best according to this research. I did, when studying for boards, create intricate flow charts of various interconnected systems, though. That was apparently the most useful, as I was engaging with the information and synthesizing it in a new way.

I also realized that some of the ways I go about learning now are actually variations on what the book recommends. He mentions trying to summarize to yourself key points that are being made, restating them in your own words, and quizzing yourself on how certain elements work. I've long known that I learn best when I teach, and I often will teach by writing (blog posts, podcasts, etc) on a subject that I want to understand better myself.

I found the concept that learning deepens the harder you have to work to retrieve information very interesting also - similar to how you build muscle by lifting heavier weights, not weights that are so easy it takes little effort. Along those lines, you learn better if you intersperse learning different but related subjects, rather than drilling the same thing over and over ad nauseum.

A great summary of how to make sure we spend our time both learning and teaching as effectively as possible!

My rating: *****

Language: none

Sexual content: none

Violence: none

Political content: none

Take Me Home
Beth Moran
Boldwood Books
9781804833605, $17.99

I love Beth Moran books, even if they do follow a predictable formula. I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't read so many of her books, but they are still enjoyable.

The formula is this: an early 30-something woman, down and out for one reason or another, moves to Sherwood Forest (always there), trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She is there to work for a quirky, lovable older woman who becomes a surrogate mother figure for her, but who later gets diagnosed with a terminal disease, which becomes a big part of the plot. While there, said protagonist also finds herself immersed in a group of multigenerational women - a club, a church group, a community, or in the case of this book, a support group - where she slowly begins to thaw out her frozen heart and learn to care about other people again after having been badly hurt. Also, at the very outset, a gorgeous man appears. He's just a teaser throughout most of the book, though constantly in the protagonist's mind. As time goes on, though, she begins to open up to the possibility of him too... but, then, there's a misunderstanding. (I HATE this part. Misunderstandings make me anxious in real life, so I do not enjoy the trope in fiction at all, either. I usually just have to grit my teeth and get through it.) In this case I saw it coming a mile away... fortunately when it happened, it was resolved relatively quickly.

The particulars of this story: Sophie was a florist who did wedding flowers as a hobby, and was planning the flowers for her sister's wedding, when her sister and both parents were suddenly killed in a car crash. She has nothing, and then because she lost so much herself, she finds herself inadvertently in a business in which she helps bereaved families as they sort out the pieces of the live of a loved one. In this capacity, Hattie, an art therapist in Sherwood Forest, hires her to help her sort out her affairs while she's still (ostensibly) young and healthy... only she has some strange caveats. Sophie is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and forced to lie about the reason for her presence there, claiming she is an historical author hired to write the details of Hattie's life. This becomes especially difficult when Sophie meets and falls instantly in love with Gideon, the young caretaker for Hattie's grounds who also is (she thinks) Hattie's cousin. She's forced to lie to him about what she's doing there from the word go... and you can see how that's likely to go awry.

Still, though they follow a very clear formula, Beth Moran's books are always feel-good and focused on the importance of love of all types, and relationships.

My rating: ****

Language: none

Sexual content: none

Violence: none

Political content: none

C.A. Gray, Reviewer

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Finding Miracles: Escape from a Cult
Andrew LeCompte
Connections Press
9798988748359, $16.95, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: A lack of love in an authoritarian household sparked Andrew LeCompte's lifelong search for love and belonging. His AA sponsor introduced him to A Course in Miracles, which Andrew studied deeply for twenty years. Then a celebrated spiritual teacher invited him to edit his first book and join his community. Andrew had been led to believe that he was chosen to find the Love of God. After a heart-rending parting from his family, he moved to Utah and joined the community.

He had some amazing early experiences while teaching the Course in Mexico, Spain, Hawaii, and Canada, some of them leading him to believe he that he was indeed finding the Love of God. But after six years of mistreatment, being coerced out of over $200,000, and emotional manipulation, Andrew found no real love, and certainly no miracles there.

When he believed that he had burned all his bridges, a loving message from his son helped Andrew to escape the cult and begin recovery. Tragically, he found his son dead on the floor a few years later. Andrew went through intense but highly effective mental health programs and emerged finally free of cultic mind control.

Ironically, he then experienced a miracle that brought him the love and happiness he hoped for.

Critique: Of particular and special value to readers with an interest in religious cults and the emancipation of their victims, "Finding Miracles: Escape from a Cult" is a compelling and intensely personal memoir that is an inherently fascinating and first-hand account of a cult survivor who escaped a fraudulent and manufactured spiritual program that founded a spurious and deceitful movement that has drawn millions of practitioners into its greedy and controlling grasp. A vivid, detailed, exceptionally well written, memorable, and inherently fascinating account, "Finding Miracles: Escape from a Cult" is deserving of as wide a readership as possible. That is while it is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library American Biography/Memoir collections and supplemental Religious Cult curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that "Finding Miracles: Escape from a Cult" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99) as well.

Editorial Note: With a master's degree in Humanistic Psychology in Organizations, Andrew developed a deeper method of interpersonal communication, which involves tapping into each person's emotions and what they are most hoping for. He then taught empathic speaking and listening skills to people in schools, colleges, civic groups, legal practices, hospitals, pharmaceutical and financial corporations. As President of the Let's Talk training group he led leadership, management, and organizational development programs. Andrew wrote a book encapsulating this way of communicating: Creating Harmonious Relationships: a Practical Guide to the Power of True Empathy (2000). The book sold out 5,000 copies and was translated into Turkish with the title Askta ve Arkadaslikta Uyumlu Iliskiler. A revised English edition of Creating Harmonious Relationships is now available.

In the spiritual realm, Andrew began meditating in the 1970s. In the 1990 he began studying the spiritual text, A Course in Miracles (ACIM). In 2004 he met the man who would become his ACIM guru/teacher. Andrew discussed key points of ACIM with his wife, a clinical psychologist, who was not in agreement with a spiritually focused life. In 2011, Andrew left his wife, son, friends, and all his possessions behind and moved 2,000 miles into his guru's ACIM-based community. There he contributed his teaching and counseling skills, plus his book editing and video editing skills. But after six grueling years he realized it was a cult and escaped. Cult psychology is a pernicious force. With the help and love of his son, Evan, and his new wife, Andrew devoted himself to intensive recovery programs. After researching cults and cult psychology he wrote his memoir, Finding Miracles: Escape from a Cult.

Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa
Daren E. Ray
Ohio University Press
9780821426128, $90.00, HC, 312pp

Synopsis: "Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa" by Professor Daren E. Ray is an investigation into the construction of ethnicity and other collective identities in communities along the Kenyan coast across two millennia.

This seminal study explores how the people of littoral East Africa imagined and reimagined their communities over two millennia of engagement with Indian Ocean transformations -- from the settlement of Bantu speakers near the coast around the first century CE to their participation in transoceanic commerce, imperial rivalries, colonial projects, and decolonization movements in the mid-twentieth century.

Like other histories of the Indian Ocean, "Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa" emphasizes the circulation of people and ideas, but its cis-oceanic approach demonstrates how these littoral communities continued to integrate strategies from those in Africa's interior as well as from people who traveled the ocean.

This ground-breaking study also clarifies the precise relationship between ethnicity and other kinds of identities by expanding the conventional focus on Swahili people to speakers of Sabaki Bantu languages, as well as to Mijikenda, Pokomo, and Elwana communities, whom Indian Ocean scholars often overlook.

By examining all these groups' shared linguistic heritage, the book outlines their forebears' innovation and transformation of lineages, clans, confederations, councils, title societies, age sets, moieties, religious sects, and tribes.

Drawing together evidence from linguistics, archaeology, ethnography, oral traditions, travelers' accounts, and colonial records, the book explores how the speakers of Sabaki languages continuously reconceptualized their identities in littoral East Africa as the political topography of the Indian Ocean world changed around them.

Moving seamlessly across multiple precolonial and colonial eras and beyond, this deep history of collaboration and political imagination leads readers through the transitions of identity that mattered to littoral East Africans.

"Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa" fills the need for an updated synthesis of East Africans' engagements with diasporic communities in Indian Ocean and world history courses. In addition, since most African history publications for classroom use in recent years have focused exclusively on modern times, it satisfies the demand for works that span the early and modern eras.

Beyond the classroom, "Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa" will interest specialists in the history of the Indian Ocean, Africa, Islam, imperialism, and ethnohistory. A major contribution of this multidisciplinary work is to present the research of archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, and historians to one another in an accessible, jargon-free manner. While Africanists will appreciate how the book expands the boundaries of the Indian Ocean to include oft-ignored communities, Indian Ocean specialists will find models for investigating the construction of ethnicity and other collective identities across multiple centuries.

Critique: Informatively enhanced for the reader's benefit with the inclusion of a number of Illustrations, forty-eight pages of Notes, a twenty-four page Bibliography, and a ten page Index, "Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa" is an impressive work of detailed and meticulous scholarship that is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to personal, community, and college/university library East African History collections and supplemental Linquistics and Black Studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Ethnicity, Identity, and Conceptualizing Community in Indian Ocean East Africa" is also available in a paperback edition (9780821426135, $36.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $35.10).

Editorial Note: Daren E. Ray ( is an assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University, where he teaches African, Islamic, and world history. He has published his multidisciplinary research in History in Africa and Muslim World journals, The Swahili World edited volume, and elsewhere. He also co-organizes the Rocky Mountain Workshop in African History.

Carl Logan

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Che Guevara on Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism
Carlos Tablada
Pathfinder Press
9781604881240, $17.00, PB, 400pp

Synopsis: Ernesto Che Guevara (14 June 1928 - 9 October 1967) was a central leader of the communist vanguard of the Cuban Revolution politically forged by Fidel Castro.

Che felt that it was essential for working people to win state powe"Then there's the second stage, maybe more difficult than the first" - the transition from dog-eat-dog capitalism to socialism. That includes moving from work as a compulsory condition of survival, to voluntary social labor through which we express our common humanity.

In the footsteps of Marx and Lenin, Che's efforts to lay the economic foundations of this historic transformation were hammered out in revolutionary struggle. They chart a road for working people everywhere to join in the fight for a socialist world. And, above all, to transform ourselves in the process.

Critique: This trade paperback (8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches, 1.05) edition of Carlos Tablada's "Che Guevara on Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism" from Pathfinder Press is a seminal and unreservedly recommended contribution to personal, professional, community, and college/university library 20th Century Communism, Socialism, and Political Science history/biography collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Carlos Tablada has worked as a researcher for the Havana-based Center for the Study of the World Economy, taught at the University of Havana, and worked as an economic director of Cuban state enterprises. In 1987 he received the Ernesto Che Guevara Special Award for the book published in English under the title Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism (1989). His work with Pathfinder Press on this new edition has produced the most accessible presentation of Che's views on these questions.

Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality
Shlomo M. Brody
Maggid Books
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
9781592646760, $32.95, HC, 412pp

Synopsis: What does it mean to fight an ethical war? This has become an essential question as Israel defends itself on the battlefield and in the court of public opinion.

After centuries of military powerlessness, Jews in the 20th century began to ask themselves fundamental questions of military ethics. Wars (including current conflicts in Israel) are inherently brutal. How, then, should Jews respond to the great Arab revolt? What does Judaism say about the bombing of Dresden, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or how to push the British out of the lan"land for peace" a moral option? What about preemptive attacks in 1967 or after 9/11? Can we fight terrorists in urban settings while protecting our soldiers, avoiding non-combatants, and preserving our public image?

With the publication of "Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality", Shlomo Brody tells the story of these political dilemmas and moral debates. He draws from the pivotal historical moments of the last one hundred years to weave together the most important ideas of contemporary ethicists with the insights of the greatest rabbinic scholars.

"Ethics of Our Fighters" systemically presents, for the first time, a holistic Jewish perspective on military ethics. Jews and non-Jews alike, from the halls of Congress and West Point to batei midrash and IDF bases, can draw from Jewish wisdom on these life-and-death matters. This worldview that is at once distinctly Jewish and more broadly insightful can help all civilized nations fight wisely and act nobly.

Critique: The Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip has, at the time of this writing (March 2024), killed over 30,000 Palestinians. The majority of these victims have been civilian women and children. Hundreds of thousands more Palestinian civilians are on the brink of dehydrating or starving to death. Israeli blockades prevent desperately-needed food and water from reaching civilians and children trapped in what is effectively an inescapable concentration camp. The war has now begun to expand in Lebanon against Hezbollah, and still further to engage with anti-Israeli military forces backed by Iran. The current Israeli government, led Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition, rejects proposals for an Israel-Palestine two-state solution, and rejects international pleas for a humanitarian ceasefire to prevent an even greater mass slaughter of civilians.

Amid this horrifying backdrop of current events, "Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality" is a compelling and relevant read from first page to last. The reader must keep in mind the mounting Palestinian civilian death toll of the Israel-Hamas war, and come to their own judgement regarding the morality guidelines expressed in "Ethics of Our Fighters", especially amid the immediate and ongoing mass extermination of Palestinian women and children. "Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality" is a significant and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections on the moral and ethical complexity of war from a Jewish perspective. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ethics of Our Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Shlomo M. Brody is the winner of the 2014 National Jewish Book Award - Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice. He is the founding director of the Tikvah Overseas Seminars for Yeshiva and Midrasha Students and teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel. He is also a presidential doctoral fellow at Bar Ilan University Law School and a junior research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. A columnist for the Jerusalem Post, his essays have also appeared in Mosaic, First Things, Tablet, Jewish Action, The Forward, The Jewish Press, Meorot, Hakirah, Jewish Ideas Daily, Tradition Online, and other publications. He received rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and an MA in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University.

Understanding Decentralized Finance
Rhian Lewis
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398609372, $131.00, HC, 232pp

Synopsis: DeFi (the next evolution of cryptocurrency) has brought a new wave of investors into the world of finance. As fintechs and financial institutions seek to integrate with DeFi, with the publication of "Understanding Decentralized Finance: How DeFi Is Changing the Future of Money", Rhian Lewis explores its history, its present context, and its future. Lewis explains the world of DeFi by comparing it to the traditional finance sector, highlighting points of similarity, difference and integration.

"Understanding Decentralized Finance" explores the technologies underlying the DeFi market and how they differ from those of traditional financial markets. It scrutinizes the difference between centralized and decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges, how NFTs fit into DeFi and how collectibles can be financialized.

Interested reader will also find out how collateralized loans, derivatives, margin trading and liquidity provision work in a world where there is no centralized institution to coordinate these activities - and how regulators in different jurisdictions are ensuring that financial regulations keep up with these innovations.

With examples from key actors in the field, including the movement of luxury organizations like Christie's and Sotheby's into the NFT space and the SushiSwap vampire attack, "Understanding Decentralized Finance" is essential reading for anyone working in finance, fintech and technology who needs to understand the fast-moving world of DeFi.

Critique: A seminal and ground-breaking introduction to the newest evolution of the bitcoin impact upon the financial world, "Understanding Decentralized Finance: How DeFi Is Changing the Future of Money" is a critically important and core addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library digital currency, monetary policy, and venture capital collections and supplemental Contemporary Economics curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for MBA students, academia, venture capitalists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Understanding Decentralized Finance: How DeFi Is Changing the Future of Money" is also available in a paperback edition (9781398609372, $35.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.59).

Editorial Note: Rhian Lewis is a consultant software engineer and former digital journalist at The Times who is a regular international conference speaker and panellist on all things blockchain and cryptocurrency. She launched the altcoin portfolio tracker, co-founded the London Women in Bitcoin meetup group in 2014 and has acted as an advisor and strategist on various blockchain projects for the last seven years. She blogs on cryptocurrency and is the author of The Cryptocurrency Revolution (Kogan Page). She is based in the UK.

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

Ethics of the Fighters: A Jewish View on War and Morality
Shlomo M. Brody
Maggid Books
c/o Koren Publishers
9781592646760, $32.95, Hardcover

At the end of his very informative book, Ethics of Our Fighters, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo M. Brody quotes General Omar Bradley's November 1948 observation, "The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants." Brody comments that much has changed since 1948, "yet I fear that our moral compass remains insufficiently developed. Some people are simply not thinking enough about ethics in general and the impact of technology in particular." He criticizes all nations for their inability to agree on any conventions or ethics. He encourages a dialogue between Israel and other countries about warfare. We need to learn why and when it is right to go to war and how to do the fighting. His book shows us why this is so.

He tells us that there are many books on the ethics of fighting wars, but the few that do so are far from adequate. He tells us why with many examples. He notes that Judaism has much to say about this topic and gives many examples but explains that while what was said is often good, it is inadequate. He provides examples from World War I, World War II, the many wars and conflicts against Israel, and others. He points out the mistakes, often well-meaning, but still mistakes, often with many losses of life.

One of the many topics discussed is civilian casualties. Is this hillul Hashem, a desecration of God, murder? How do we handle the problem that military technology, no matter how sophisticated, will not prevent collateral damage?

Others include whether self-defense begins by attacking an enemy before he attacks us and, if so, when. Another is how we evaluate the different goals of war, such as destroying the enemy, world opinion, and saving hostages. Others are how we should understand the Bible's command to destroy Amalek, should Israel hold itself to a higher morality," and how self-restraint should be implemented.

We learn many interesting facts. For example, during World War II, nearly thirty thousand Jews in pre-Israel Palestine served in the British army. In total, over 1.5 million Jews served in Allied armies across the globe: 550,000 in the US, 500,000 in the Red Army, 100,000 in the Polish Army, and 60,000 in the British.

In short, Dr. Brody's book should be required reading in all military academies and by politicians in every nation. It will save lives and help make the world behave ethically.

Vegetarianism, Ecology, and Business Ethics
Daniel Sperber
Urim Publications
9789655243673, $24.95 Hardcover, 239 pages

Daniel Sperber's superb new book

Daniel Sperber's 2024 latest book, published by Urim Publications, "Vegetarianism, Ecology, and Business Ethics," is superb. Everyone should read it. The book has three essays focusing on Judaic insights into contemporary concerns. I have been a fan of his writings for years. I read all of his books. I was never disappointed. I learned much from each book. Although scholarly, with many footnotes to support what he writes for readers who want additional information, his books, including this one, are easy to read. The books are filled with eye-opening information, offering readers much they did not know and much to think about.

Many readers will be surprised by the 82 pages of facts that Dr. Sperber reveals from both Jewish and non-Jewish sources about vegetarianism, how animals are treated, often in unhealthy ways for the animals and those who eat them, and how animals suffer. For example, the following small samples are from the many Dr. Sperber discusses with detailed proofs.

We read that virtually all chickens are artificially hatched from eggs in electrically heated incubators. Because of this treatment, they rarely live an entire year. Therefore, some rabbis ruled that chickens, these short-lived creatures, are like dead bodies and are not kosher. In any event, eating chicken is morally problematic.

After birth, chickens are crammed together as many as 40,000 in a single building. They cannot move. They are overfed to make them fat. Their manure is routinely recycled into their feed. They become ill before they are slaughtered. Their mistreatment is horrifying, and eating them is dangerous to health.

Cows, like chickens, are similarly treated. They are raised in stalls, preventing them from even taking several steps. They are also overfed to make them fat and a substance to increase their white meat. These feedings make them sick. They are killed in a manner that causes them pain. They know when they are being taken to be slaughtered, and they cry and struggle to escape. They are killed in a manner that causes them pain.

There is not sufficient supervision to ensure that butchers even follow basic Jewish slaughtering requirements.

Dr. Sperber gives scientific proof that consuming animal flesh, euphuistically"meat," impacts one's health.

Fish feel 15 minutes of excruciating pain before they lose consciousness. They cry in pain.

The Torah does not require Jews to eat meat. Many scholars are convinced that the Torah encourages people to live vegetarian. It only allowed the consum"meat," as it allowed sacrifices, because of human frailty.

Although I read much in other sources about ecology, I found Dr. Sperber's 99-page discussion much more informative. It caused me to think how absurdly politicians followed the reporting by the press and explained ecology issues poorly and confusedly, so it was impossible to form a solution. People, especially politicians and those paid to find solutions, must read this book and learn from his fact-filled, eye-opening discussion.

In his 66 ethics pages, he discusses business ethics and the generally neglected ethics of social ethical investments. The latter "because irresponsible investments, such as investing in harmful products, for example, those that contaminate our planet... or impoverish sectors of the population, and even impair their health, is to be firmly and vociferously opposed." As with his discussion about vegetarianism and ecology, he cites biblical views and many fascinating and informative statements and stories by and about respected ancient rabbis.

Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

A Forest of Your Own
Kirk Hanson, author
Seth Zuckerman, author
c/o Mountaineers Books
9781680516364, $34.95, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Throughout the states of Oregon and Washington there are several hundred thousand family forest owners, in addition to millions of forest acres under the care of community forests, municipalities, and Indigenous tribes, all of whom manage trees for sustainable wood harvest as well as recreation, inspiration, and a range of cultural connections.

Yet there hasn't been a complete resource for Pacific Northwest forest stewards until the publication of "A Forest of Your Own: The Pacific Northwest Handbook of Ecological Forestry" by co-authors Kirk Hanson and Seth Zuckerman.

In this comprehensive study, co-authors Hanson and Zuckerman explore all aspects of forest management -- including everything from how to evaluate a piece of land before you buy it, through implementing long-term plans that may include establishing new stands of trees, harvesting mushrooms as well as wood, and protecting your forests far into the future through wildfire risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and conservation easements.

Loaded from cover to cover with a wealth of helpful tables and illustrations that address the pros and cons of various species and how to best care for wildlife and the land, "A Forest of Your Own" is a clear guide to the many rewards of ecological forestry.

Critique: Effectively and informatively illustrated throughout, and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections, "A Forest of Your Own: The Pacific Northwest Handbook of Ecological Forestry" is impressively comprehensive, expertly written, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation making it an ideal textbook for Forestry Conservation/Management curriculums.

iPhone For Dummies: 2024th Edition
Guy Hart-Davis
For Dummies
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
9781394221646, $29.99, PB, 368pp

Synopsis: Fully updated to cover the newest features of iOS and the latest iPhone models, with the publication of "iPhone For Dummies", helps you to keep in touch with family and friends, take pictures, play games, follow the news, stream music and video, get a little work done, and just about everything else with your personal iPhone.

This user-friendly guide walks you through the basics of calling, texting, FaceTiming, and discovering all the cool things your iPhone can do. You will also benefit from the insight of a longtime Apple expert Guy Hart-Davis on how to make the most of your new (or old) iPhone and its features. These wildly popular devices get more useful all the time.

Find out what's in store for you with Apple's latest releases (even if you've never owned an iPhone before) as you: Discover the features of the latest iOS release and iPhone models; Customize your settings and keep your phone secure; Make the most of your camera and shoot high-quality videos; Find little-known utilities and apps that will make your life easier.

Critique: The premier smart guide to using your smartphone, and updated for the latest iOS and iPhone releases "iPhone For Dummies: 2024 Edition" is the thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide and 'how-to' manual on how to get the most out value and use of a new iPhone. Especially and unreservedly recommended for new and inexperienced iPhone users, "iPhone For Dummies 2024th Edition" is an essential and highly prized pick for community and college/university library collections, and Mobil/Wireless Telecommunications and Handheld/Mobile Devices supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Guy Hart-Davis is the author of more than 100 technical books, including several books in the For Dummies and Teach Yourself VISUALLY series. There is an online listing of his books at

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

Family Handyman Whole House Repair Guide
Family Handyman Editors
Trusted Media Brands
9781621450566, $18.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Family Handyman's Whole House Repair Guide: : Over 300 Step-by-Step Repairs!", the editorial staff of Family Handyman gives readers the know-how and confidence to tackle repair jobs, save money and avoid the hassles of service calls.

"The Family Handyman's Whole House Repair Guide" covers all of the most common repairs from floors to ceilings, from paint to plumbing. Indoors or out, large or small, this is the ideal DIY guide you need to do the job right. "The Family Handyman's Whole House Repair Guide" walk you step-by-step through all projects, while also provide tips and tricks that will make the jobs simpler.

The chapters comprising "The Family Handyman's Whole House Repair Guide" include Walls & Ceilings, Plumbing, Doors & Windows, Floors and Floor Coverings, Furniture and Cabinets, Electrical, Exterior, Concrete & Asphalt, Appliances and More easy Repairs.

Critique: Especially effective for the non-professional, non-specialist general reader needing to embark on DIY household repair and renovation projects, "Family Handyman Whole House Repair Guide: Over 300 Step-by-Step Repairs! ", with is fully illustrated step-by-step instructions, is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. Originally published in hardcover (2021), "Family Handyman Whole House Repair Guide" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library DIY home improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Family Handyman Whole House Repair Guide" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99).

Editorial Note: The Family Handyman is the premier DIY home improvement magazine and the trusted how-to guide for nearly 5 million passionate amateur and pro consumers. Packed with projects, expert tips, new products and more, every issue celebrates the challenge, accomplishment and pride of a project well-done (or, sometimes, just done!) and gives consumers the inspiration and solutions they need to create the home of their dreams.

Football for Fun: The Story of Coach Stewart "Fergie" Ferguson
Bill Bell, author
Peter Oltchick, author
South Dakota Historical Society Press
9781941813478, $24.95, PB, 372pp

Synopsis: On the eve of World War II, Stewart Ferguson, a football coach from a tiny Arkansas agricultural college, decided the sport ought to be played for fun. Under a bizarre contract that made no bones about whether they ever won a game, "Fergie" and his team of misfits piled into a rickety bus for a three-year barnstorming odyssey that would see the Wandering Weevils of Arkansas A&M befuddle their opponents with slapstick antics, become media and fan favorites, and earn the moniker "the Marx Brothers of Football."

Born in Missouri and raised near Mitchell, South Dakota, this son of a stern Methodist minister was a larger-than-life personality with equally outsized opinions. Fergie left an indelible impression on generations of athletes, first in Louisiana, then at Dakota Wesleyan University and Arkansas A&M, and later as head coach at Deadwood High School, where he led the Bears to their first ever football conference championship.

With the publication of "Football for Fun: The Story of Coach Stewart "Fergie" Ferguson", co-authors Bill Bell and Peter Oltchick draw on rich sources, including Ferguson's unpublished memoirs and interviews with former players and family, to bring this remarkable South Dakotan (and the often cutthroat world of high school and collegiate sports) to life.

Critique: A simply fascinating read from start to finish, "Football for Fun: The Story of Coach Stewart "Fergie" Ferguson" will be of particular interest to the dedicated fans of highschool and college/university football. An exceptionally well written and informative biography of a remarkable and memorable man, "Football for Fun" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and college/university library American Biography and American Sports History collections.

Editorial Note #1: Bill Bell (1931-2007) was born in Buffalo, New York and grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He began his lifelong career in journalism as sports editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial in 1953. After fourteen years with United Press International, he spend twenty-five years with the New York Daily News, serving as the religion editor and City Beat columnist. He was a longtime member and onetime president of the Dead-line club, the New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Editorial Note #2: Peter Oltchick got his start in writing as sports editor for the oldest college weekly in America, The Colgate Maroon. He has written for the online magazine Suite 101 and is the author of a children's picture book, Clean Clara.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

Bonsai Master Class
Kunio Kobayashi
Tuttle Publishing
9784805317433, $24.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: Kunio Kobayashi is one the world's most recognized bonsai artists. With the publication of Bonsai Master Class: Lessons and Tips from a Japanese Master For All the Most Popular Types of Bonsai" He presents clear instructions on all the essential techniques needed to plant and maintain the most popular types of bonsai ranging from pines, cypress and cedar, to flowering trees and other beloved varieties -- including grasses.

"Bonsai Master Class" is an ideal step-by-step instructional resource for new fans and longtime aficionados of bonsai and Japanese gardening alike, showing how, with the help of human hands, a bonsai tree can evolve and thrive over centuries.

"Bonsai Master Class" provides all the vital information needed, including: A thorough explanation of the basic bonsai types and styles, and their characteristics; Guidance in the art of selecting the right plants, pots and spaces to display your bonsai; Tips on getting started (including purchasing the plants, assembling the necessary tools and choosing the soils); Advice and techniques for planting, repotting, watering, pruning, shaping, wiring and protecting your plants (including a seasonal schedule of tasks for each type of bonsai); Detailed lessons for specific bonsai varieties like Japanese cypress, red pine, maple, zelkova, sakura and more!

American gardeners and bonsai enthusiasts will be inspired by Kobayashi's award-winning bonsai ranging from classic types to out-of-the-box originals, showing how this art form is as individual as it is traditional. "Bonsai Master Class" will become the premier instructional reference for nurturing and cultivating the skills and knowledge necessary of creating and maintaining these venerable plants.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader's benefit with more than 600 color photos and b/w diagrams, "Bonsai Master Class: Lessons and Tips from a Japanese Master For All the Most Popular Types of Bonsai" is a complete, comprehensive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' DIY manual for successfully growing bonsai trees for fun and profit. While an essential and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, professional, community library, and college/university library Container & House Plant Gardening collections and supplemental Japanes Gardening curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for professional and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Bonsai Master Class: Lessons and Tips from a Japanese Master For All the Most Popular Types of Bonsai" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $23.74).

Editorial Note: Kunio Kobayashi ( is a Japanese bonsai artist, and the owner of the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum in Tokyo.

Nukazuke: The Japanese Art of Fermented Pickling
Nami Yamada
Tuttle Publishing
9784805317907, $19.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Nukazuke: The Japanese Art of Fermented Pickling", Nami Yamada provides American kitchen cooks with an exciting introduction to the Japanese method of pickling in a reusable bed of fermented rice bran -- a medium that is easy to prepare and maintain at home.

Nami Yamada is a dietary expert, chef and herbalist, and in the pages of "Nukazuke: The Japanese Art of Fermented Pickling" she provides instructions for 60 fermented pickles including unusual ones made from ingredients like daikon radish, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, apples, garlic and tofu!

Yamada also provides 30 delightful recipes showing how to incorporate fermented nukazuke pickles into daily Japanese-style meals, with delicious and nutritious dishes like: Futomaki Sushi Rolls with Pickled Tuna; Pickled Apple and Napa Cabbage Salad; Stir-fried Summer Vegetables with Pork and Soybean Miso; Mackerel Simmered with Nukazuke Fermented Rice Bran; and dozens of other wholesome and delicious recipes -- including desserts!

"Nukazuke: The Japanese Art of Fermented Pickling" is a comprehensive and inspiring guide to a traditional Japanese fermentation method will help you eat more delicious and healthy meals!

Critique: Nukazuke fermented pickles have long been recognized as a 'superfood' for promoting good gut health. "Nukazuke: The Japanese Art of Fermented Pickling" is a beautifully and profusely illustrated culinary instruction manual for the making and the use of Nukazuke fermented pickles in an impressive variety of palate pleasing, appetite satisfying, health promoting dishes that would grace any formal or informal dining occasion. While a unique and singularly exceptional pick for personal, family and community library cookbook collections, it should be noted that "Nukazuke: The Japanese Art of Fermented Pickling" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note: Nami Yamada is a dietary expert, chef and herbalist, who is an expert at fermenting pickles including unusual ones made from ingredients like daikon radish, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, apples, garlic.

Please Explain Divorce to Me!
Laurie Zelinger, Ph.D, author
Elisa Sabella, illustrator
Loving Healing Press
9781615997817, $29.95, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: Because divorce or separation in cohabitating relationships is a family event, "Please Explain Divorce to Me!: Because My Parents Are Breaking Up--A Story for Children and Step-by-Step Guide for Parents" was written for both children and adults. Gently telling their children that they will be getting a divorce, a mother and father share their family story: the journey from their happy wedding day, through the conflict at present and into the near and reassuring future.

The second half of "Please Explain Divorce to Me!" highlights important tips and insights for parents. The children will: Learn about the divorce process; Find out that their own parents' divorce is not their fault; Discover that parents divorce each other; they do not divorce their children; Be comforted knowing they are still part of a family who loves them; Understand what it is like to have two homes.

The parents will: Have a framework for telling their children they are getting a divorce; Hear the common questions children ask; Learn the DOs and DON'Ts regarding their own behavior; Improve the likelihood of creating a healthier divorce; Understand their children's reactions and support their emotions.

Critique: With divorce rates increasing regardless of martial demographics such as age, income, education levels, etc., "Please Explain Divorce to Me!: Because My Parents Are Breaking Up--A Story for Children and Step-by-Step Guide for Parents" by child psychologist Laurie Zelinger is an invaluable and timely instructional and informational resource to use by divorcing and devoiced parents with children 8-12 years of age -- as well as social workers, marriage counselors, and divorce mediators. While also readily available in both a paperback edition (9781615997800, $17. 95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.95), "Please Explain Divorce to Me!: Because My Parents Are Breaking Up--A Story for Children and Step-by-Step Guide for Parents" is an ideal and thoroughly 'kid friendly' pick for personal, professional, family, elementary school, and community library Parenting collections dealing with divorce and its impact upon children.

Editorial Note: Laurie Zelinger ( is a Board Certified Psychologist by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and a Fellow of the Academy of School Psychology. Board certification represents the highest level of attainment a psychologist can achieve and is held by just over 100 school psychology specialists in the United States and Canada. She held an elected position at a national level on the Executive Board of the American Academy of School Psychology from 2016-2018. Dr. Zelinger is a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor by the Association of Play Therapy

Julie Summers

Kate Michaelson's Bookshelf

None Without Sin
Michael Bradley
CamCat Books
9780744305951, $17.99 paperback

Synopsis: None Without Sin is an amateur sleuth mystery about Candice, a kleptomaniac pastor who has lost her faith, and Brian, a journalist who has lost his wife. Both Candice and Brian serve as point-of-view characters who tell the story of a strange series of murders in their small Delaware town. At each crime scene, a loaf of bread is left near the body and a single-word accusation of sin is written on the victim. Before long, Candice makes the connection between the crime scenes and the archaic practice of sin-eating, in which someone from a lower class would consume bread purported to contain the sins of the recently deceased, thus allowing them to enter the afterlife free of sin. As more of their neighbors are killed, Brian and Candice begin working together to determine if the murders are related to a recently unearthed cold case, a blackmailing scheme, an affair, or a cleric in crisis.

Critique: In Brian and Candice, Bradley has created three-dimensional characters with compelling backstories that drive their responses to the murder spree. The small-town setting is also used effectively to create a web of relationships linking many of the characters to one another. Most of all, this book stands apart from many mysteries for its deft exploration of weighty themes, like sin and redemption. From the interesting theological concept of the sin-eater to the personal struggle of a pastor who has lost her faith, None Without Sin explores the ripple effects of doing wrong to others. Readers who enjoy mysteries with a thought-provoking edge will love this one.

Editorial Note: Michael Bradley is the author of four crime novels, including Dead Air, which won an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for best audiobook.

The Mystery Guest
Nita Prose
9780735241305, $18.99 paperback

Synopsis: In the sec"Molly the Maid" series, we find Molly reprising her role as the head maid at the Regency Grand Hotel when famous author, J.D. Grimthorpe dies under suspicious circumstances. As if this isn't bad enough, the authorities quickly turn their attention to Molly's protege, Lily, who served Grimthorpe his tea moments before he died. Meanwhile, Molly must conceal her own childhood connection to the mystery author for fear of drawing suspicion. Through flashbacks to her childhood, we learn how the difficulties she had fitting in at school were balanced out with the loving life she "Gran," who was a maid in the mansion of none other than Grimthorpe himself. As we alternate between timelines, Prose offers sumptuous descriptions of the Regency Grand and Grimthorpe's mansion through Molly's appreciative eyes.

Critique: Molly's innocent view of the world continues to delight in this book, particularly when she encounters characters more cynical or jaded than she is yet holds her own. Fans of Prose's first book will enjoy this new installment in the series, which offers more of Molly's backstory in a way that dovetails nicely with the mystery. However, Prose reveals just enough about the first book so that readers new to the series will be able to jump right into this one. This sequel to The Maid offers a refreshing, wholehearted sincerity and should appeal to readers of traditional and cozy mysteries alike.

Editorial: Nita Prose's debut mystery, The Maid, was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

Kate Michaelson, Reviewer

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Wine and the White House: A History
Frederick J. Ryan, Jr.
White House Historical Association
9781950223461, $65.00, HC, 468pp

Synopsis: Originally published in 2020, this new second edition of "Wine and the White House: A History" by Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. is fully updated and will have a very special appeal for readers with an interest in presidential Whitehouse history, a dedicated connoisseur of fine wine -- or both.

This new edition of "Wine and the White House: A History" explores every president's experience of wine. The fully and beautifully illustrated pages also feature memorable presidential toasts, menus from historic White House gatherings, a catalog of vintages served, and spectacular new photography of the White House glassware collection.

Early presidents recognized the important function wine played in entertaining at the White House. While some appreciated and enjoyed wine, others considered it merely a ceremonial necessity. Still others campaigned to outlaw wine and banned it from the White House; their successors celebrated its return. More recently, all presidents, regardless of whether they enjoyed wine themselves, have used the White House as a venue to showcase the fine wines produced in the United States.

Critique: This large format (9" x 11") coffee-table style hardcover edition of "Wine and the White House: A History" is impressively informative, illustrated throughout with full color photography and illustrations, exceptionally well produced, organized and presented -- making it an ideal, truly memorable, and unreservedly recommended pick for personal, community, and college/university library Presidential History and Whitehouse History collections.

Editorial Note: Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., the former publisher and CEO of the Washington Post and founding CEO of Politico, has been an aficionado of both wine and White House history for most of his life. Growing up in Italy and California, he developed an early interest in wine and its production and has extensively studied winemaking and its history in the years since. He has been fortunate to develop friendships with winemakers across the globe, to travel to most of the worldís great wine regions, and to participate in a winemaking venture in Napa Valley. Ryanís fascination with wine parallels his lifelong interest in the American presidency. He served in a senior staff position in the Ronald Reagan White House and as former President Reaganís chief of staff. As a media executive in Washington, D.C., he has had a front-row seat to presidential history as it has been made by multiple administrations. Ryan currently serves as chairman of the White House Historical Associationís White House Endowment and Acquisition Trust, the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and the Wine Committee of the Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C. He is a trustee of the University of Southern California, the National Geographic Society, and Fordís Theatre. He is the editor of Ronald Reagan: The Wisdom and Humor of the Great Communicator (1995) and Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator (2001).

Pallenberg Wonder Bears - From the Beginning
Peggy Adler, author
Dibirma Jean Burnham, author
BearManor Media
9798887710334, $38.00, HC, 206pp

Synopsis: Performing bears were a part of many a 19th and 20th century circus offering. One of the most famous were billed as the Pallenberg Wonder Bears. Now rescued from historical obscurity by Peggy Adler with the publication of "Pallenberg Wonder Bears - From the Beginning", their inherently fascinating story is impressively enhanced for the reader's beneft with the inclusion of numerous historical B/W photos.

Critique: Presented in a chronological history from 1854 to 1917, "Pallenberg Wonder Bears - From the Beginning" is laid out in meticulous detail and will have an immense and enduring appeal to readers with an interest in the history of the American Circus and it's animal acts. Especially recommended for community and college/university collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pallenberg Wonder Bears - From the Beginning" is also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9798887710327, $28.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Peggy Adler ( has illustrated two dozen titles for various trade book publishers and provided art for the Bronx Zoo; the Humane Society of the United States; the Journal of Theoretical Biology; the Journal of Algebra; and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She is also a Marquis Who's Who Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement honoree; a 2001 recipient of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers' General Richard G. Stilwell Award.; and is a former police commissioner and softball coach, who currently chairs the Town of Clinton, Connecticut's Historic District Commission.

Force of Nature: A Celebration of Girls and Women Raising Their Voices
Kate T. Parker
Workman Publishing Company
9781523505524, $19.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Mothers lifting up their daughters. Sisters standing their ground. Classmates lending a helping hand. "Force of Nature: A Celebration of Girls and Women Raising Their Voices" by photographer Kate kT. Parker showcases more than 150 full-color and black-and-white images of girls and women in the process of speaking up and speaking out.

"Force of Nature" is the third installment in the 'Strong Is the New Pretty' series by author-photographer Kate Parker and is organized into four chapters: Find Your Voice, Use Your Voice, Amplify Your Voice, and Sustain Your Voice.

The images comprising "Force of Nature" tackle issues big and small with the power and wisdom of their voices and their confidence in themselves. Individually and collectively, these girls and women (and their voices) are a force of nature. Some arrive in the form of urgent whispers while others positively roar off the page.

Each individual photo is accompanied by a quotation from the subject talking about how she has found or used her voice to uplift herself and others. Throughout the four chapters are ten "spotlights" that feature additional photos and extended essays that tell the stories of exceptional girls and women who are navigating the complexities of making change every day.

Critique: A unique and memorable visual celebration of girls and women, "Force of Nature: A Celebration of Girls and Women Raising Their Voices" is a fascinating, thought-provoking study and will prove a welcome and very special pick for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Contemporary Photography collections, and supplemental Women's Studies curriculum lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Force of nature" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Kate T. Parker ( is a mother, wife, former collegiate soccer player, Ironman, and professional photographer who shoots both fine art projects and commercial work for clients across North America. 'Her Strong Is the New Pretty' photo series has led to collaborations with brands like Athleta, Kellogg's, Oxygen, and Girls on the Run. The project has also inspired Kate to launch a philanthropic arm of 'Strong Is the New Pretty', partnering with organizations that invest in girls' health and education.

Fruitful: Sweet and Savoury Fruit Recipes Inspired by Farms, Orchards and Gardens
Sarah Johnson
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Publishing
9781804191033, $34.99, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Featuring an introduction that covers the key techniques for cooking with fruit, such as roasting, poaching and pureeing, "Fruitful: Sweet and Savoury Fruit Recipes Inspired by Farms, Orchards and Gardens" by Sarah Johnson is comprised of more than 80 recipes comprising individual chapters showcasing citrus, berries, stone fruit, orchard and vine fruits, pome fruits, shrubs and stalks.

From Polenta and Blackberry Muffins and Apricot Muscat Tart, to Pear and Farro Salad, Pan-Fried Duck Breast with Blackcurrant and Mackerel with Gooseberry Compote and Yoghurt, kitchen cooks will discover in the beautifully illustrated pages of "Fruitful: Sweet and Savoury Fruit Recipes Inspired by Farms, Orchards and Gardens" the joy and versatility of cooking with fruit -- plus plenty of jams, sorbets and ice creams!

Interspersed between the recipes are flavor charts and pairing suggestions for every fruit, alongside four interviews with fruit growers and farmers around the world.

Critique: Thoroughly family kitchen cook friendly in organization and presentation, this large format (7.75 x 0.89 x 10 inches, 2.34 pounds) hardcover edition of Sarah Johnson's "Fruitful: Sweet and Savoury Fruit Recipes Inspired by Farms, Orchards and Gardens" from Kyle Books is an inherently interesting and inspirational delight to plan truly memorable menus with, and is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library vegetarian and cooking-with-fruit culinary collections.

Editorial Note: Trained by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, San Francisco, and now Head of Pastry Development at Spring in London and luxury hotel Heckfield Place in Hampshire, Sarah Johnson's recipes are modern, fresh and full of flavor. Her close relationship with the farmers and producers that supply the restaurants has given her a wealth of knowledge on the best fruits to buy and cook, and fantastic tips and tricks to get the most from your produce.

Margaret Lane

Mari Carlson's Bookshelf

Murder at Music Hall
A.J. Ullman
Independently Published
9781733139830 $9.98 paperback

A timpanist is found dead on a Cincinnati concert hall stage, with mallets stuck in his eye sockets. The murderer is in jail, but the man's father, a rich businessman, isn't sure the case is closed. He hires Trueman North to find the real killer. True tackles the investigation with a fervor reaching beyond the facts - into the mystery of his own heart. Despite the gruesome realities of the case, he solves it, not only for justice, but for closure for his own losses.

"a saga... akin to a Shakespearean tragedy," (269). From the historic setting, to family drama, to war trauma, to musical competition, and political corruption, it is a rich and complex world in which there are multiple cases and puzzles to be solved. Ullman has written several other novels, all layered and drawing from his varied professional experiences in law, medicine, and psychology. So far, this one achieves most focus through the main character, a compass rose of sorts, Trueman North. His story of fighting in the Korean War and losing a brother and wife puts his detective work into a human perspective almost any reader can access.

The book delights in proverbs and sayings. While it renders some of the dialogue a bit formulaic, there's a method to the madness: the characters flesh out timeless words. Ullman's words bring cliches to life by men and women with harrowing backstories. Entitled heirs of Trumen's client, True's police colleagues, and the victim's orchestra mates all divulge themselves to True. In the end, he rewards their confessions with bravery and valor benefitting all - as well as wit and soul-searching. Look for more from Trueman North - this is the first in a series

Katharine's Remarkable Road Trip
Gail Ward Olmsted
Black Rose Writing
9781685134327, $20.95

Katharine Prescott Wormeley, a historical nurse, philanthropist, administrator, and lady of letters, takes an imaginary journey at the end of her life (1907). Driving alone from her house in Rhode Island to the home where she will live out her final days in New Hampshire, Katharine meets strangers who help her tell her life's story, as she also inspires them to live out the dreams they share with her. She visits old friends, most importantly a first true love, with whom she shares her secrets.

Like her driving style - cautious and slow - the book's writing meanders, in keeping with the trip's purpose - more than to get from point A to B. It luxuriates New England's characteristic small towns, foliage, and industriousness and takes time for happenstance. Descriptions of workers, cafes, and wayside rest stops create apt settings for Katharine's recollections of the hodgepodge of Katharine's career working on hospital ships during the Civil War, running a school, and translating books from French. The people she encounters reflect her enterprising young self. As she sees herself in them, her character is self-aware. Narrating her inner thoughts, particularly about worried family and friends skeptical of her solitary trip (and life), the book gives voice to a vibrant spirit inspiring in any age. She is what is remarkable about her road trip. Her epiphanies and confessions to her dearest friend portray an abiding and admirable trust. A biographical sketch embedded in a delightful adventure is a perfect pairing.

Mari Carlson

Mark Zvonkovic's Bookshelf

The Rumor Game
Thomas Mullen
Minotaur Books
c/o Macmillan
9781250842770, $28.00 368 Pages

A multifaceted historical novel that takes place in World War II Boston.

An aspiring young woman reporter in Boston during World War II, whose name is Anne, attempts to expose antisemitism and a fascist plot in World War II Boston. She has many hurdles to surmount, not the least of which is that she is a child of two worlds, with a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. Anne crosses paths with Devon, who is an FBI agent investigating a murder linked to espionage at a weapons plant. But Devon is a womanizer of sorts and completely Irish Catholic in heritage, not to mention his family involvement with a group of domestic fascists. Anne and Devon wind their way through murder, espionage, and a plot by the fascists to stop US involvement in the war. At the same time they stumble through a disorderly romance. The Rumor Game balances subplots with character dynamics as it moves through difficult domestic circumstance accompanying America's wartime buildup to the invasion of Italy.

Like his earlier novels, Thomas Mullen weaves together a multifaceted plot that is laid out meticulously with well-timed action and intrigue. The novel's characters have personalities that are complex, although messy. This heightens the suspense in the plot by always putting the reader on the edge of a concern that the characters will defeat themselves, leaving the villains to escape accountability. Their mistakes are a refreshing departure from the world created by conventional thrillers, where the hero prevails and justice is cleanly served. At the end of The Rumor Game the characters are like unpacked boxes, where a reader can see a top layer but has yet to pull out the rest of the contents.

The Rumor Game is an exquisitely crafted story that coyly glances at closure. The pieces come together in a calibrated fashion, but the message, if one thinks a message is necessary, is clouded by moral ambivalence that is illustrated near the end of the novel by the unsettling last meeting between Anne and Devon. All of the story's moral questions are presented in that scene, but the only resolution available is one the reader will be required to imagine. Mullen doesn't offer the classical formal closure aesthetic so many historical mysteries provide. And that makes The Rumor Game a refreshing read.

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

How to Be a Digital Nomad
Kayla Thrig
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398613119, $61.00, HC, 248pp

Synopsis: The underlying message of "How to Be a Digital Nomad: Build a Successful Career While Travelling the World" by Kayla Thrig is that you don't need to sacrifice your career in order to travel the world. You can join with today's 35 million digital nomads who are living, working and exploring to the fullest.

A DIY instruction manual, with "How to Be a Digital Nomad" you will discover the incredible opportunities of digital nomadism and how you can travel the world while also sustaining a successful work-life. "How to Be a Digital Nomad" provides all the information you will need to build a successful career on your own terms.

"How to Be a Digital Nomad" is both a practical guide, a how-to manual, and an insightful exploration of this unique lifestyle. It includes interviews with a diverse range of remote workers, telling stories that span five decades of digital nomadism, and highlights the unique opportunities this lifestyle offers you and your career. Whether you are looking for a few months away, a working gap year, or an entirely new lifestyle, How to Be a Digital Nomad" will show you how you can take control of your career while travelling the world.

Critique: Impressively comprehensive and compelling, "How to Be a Digital Nomad: Build a Successful Career While Travelling the World" is exceptionally well written, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. While especially and unreservedly recommended for professional, community and college/university library Jobs/Careers collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Be a Digital Nomad" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781398613058, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.19).

Editorial Note: Kayla Ihrig ( is the founder and CEO of Writing From Nowhere, through which she consults on topics such as digital nomadism, building online skills and social media marketing. In 2017, she booked a one-way flight and left her job working at an architecture firm behind. She has been abroad ever since, building a successful career while traveling the world. She has also appeared in Yahoo Finance, HubSpot, GoDaddy, Medium's Authority Magazine, The Expat Magazine, and The Offbeat Life. She is currently traveling full-time with her husband.

52 Weeks of Wellbeing: A No-Nonsense Guide to a Fulfilling Work Life
Ryan Hopkins
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398613935, $61.00, HC, 264pp

Synopsis: Whether you are a rank and file employee, a business manger, or a corporate executive, there's one thing that's more important than productivity and promotion -- and that is your personal and professional wellbeing. With the publication of "52 Weeks of Wellbeing: A No-Nonsense Guide to a Fulfilling Work Life", Ryan Hopkins shows you how you can lead a fulfilling work life with 52 inspiring insights -- one for every week of the year.

We are all too often engaged in a busy and competitive work life that can distract us from focusing on our wellbeing and mental health. "52 Weeks of Wellbeing" is packed from cover to cover with practical and accessible tips that you can incorporate into your everyday life, leaving you healthier and more fulfilled.

Hopkins has vast experience of offering ground-breaking wellbeing insights and tips to individuals and organizations across the world. In "52 Weeks of Wellbeing" he distills his insights -- all of which are backed by psychological research and illustrated with inspiring stories of success. From unconventional concepts such as Kintsugi, to the power of digital detoxes, begin your journey towards a more fulfilling work life with a close and careful reading of "52 Weeks of Wellbeing".

Critique: While also available for personal reading lists in both a paperback edition (9781398613911, $15.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.79), "52 Weeks of Wellbeing: A No-Nonsense Guide to a Fulfilling Work Life" is a unique, extraordinary, and thoroughly reader friendly' instructional guide and a welcome and high value pick for personal, professional, community, corporate, and college/university library Business Motivational, Management, Leadership, and Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections.

Editorial Note: Ryan Hopkins is the Chief Impact Officer at JAAQ and former Creator/Leader of the Global Future of Wellbeing Business at Deloitte - where he helped organizations and governments around the world to create workplaces where people can thrive, positively influencing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Michael J. Carson

Michael Daigle's Bookshelf

Arthur Turfa
Alien Buddha Press

The lives presented in Arthur Turfa's short story collection, Epiphanies, appear calm, measured, routine, even. Teachers, students, ministers, soldiers, characters leading recognizable existences.

Until something changes: The characters are just minding their own business when a question emerges, a new circumstance, or even an old circumstance, surfaces. A thing that presents a challenge that in most of these stories the character had not foreseen, thus the title.

In his introduction, Turfa wrote, "The main character sees the way he or she is to proceed in life instead of the way they or others expected them to. A sense of affirmation follows the epiphany.

None of the main characters has "earned" this epiphany; I believe that is impossible, but some would differ with me. Rather the epiphany presents itself at the right time, a time of kairos, which people cannot bring about themselves. When it occurs, they know it and proceed ahead."

Turfa is a retired teacher, a soldier, and ordained Lutheran pastor, and these stories are drawn from that life. He has published several collections of poetry and one novel, THE BOTLEYS OF BEAUMONT COUNTY, which tells the tale of the changing circumstances of deeply Southern family.

In Epiphanies, the stories are drawn from the details of American lives filled with routine, family and broken families, tradition and change.

The details matter: Parents marshaling kids through breakfast and off to school, favorite coffee shops, the mundane pieces of one's job, seemingly minor work tensions, missing lovers, break-ups, road trips and favorite songs, the happenstance of a meeting, an announcement on a bulletin board; woven into all of these common circumstances are the seeds of change, doubt, confrontation, and deliverance.

Don't be fooled: Within their simplicity, calmness and commonness, these stories hold a mirror to modern American life and expose the silent and at times ignored squirming forces of division and suspicion, power and authority.

Turfa looks under the hood of these seemingly calm lives and exposes some bit of unrest that could - that is the key word - could - foster a new direction.

There are no violent blow-ups, no shouting matches, no dramatic end-of-life soliloquies, just characters weighing their futures and acting on the idea that has presented itself.

The lack of drama in most of these stories is what makes them so compelling because there are no conclusions, just possibilities. The characters take the fork in the road, or ponder taking the path less traveled. Nothing is promised, just the action taken.

There are choices presented to these characters that we can all share.

Michael Stephen Daigle, Reviewer

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Nicholas Boulton, narrator
Modest Mussorgsky, composer
B0CCV51FVL, $13.95

Modest Mussorsky In The Great Composer Series

When I was in eighth grade many years ago, schools still taught music appreciation. Our music appreciation course was taught by a gifted, flamboyantly dramatic teacher who worked hard to instill his charges with a love of music and in a remarkable number of cases succeeded. His name was Ralph Ullenberg (1922 -- 2008). Among other things, Mr. Ullenberg required his class to listen the the great piano suite "Pictures at an Exhibition" by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839 -- 1881) and to be tested on it. Mr, Ullenberg gave, in his own inimitable way, an introduction to Mussorgsky and to his strange, tormented life and music. Then, he had us listen to a piano LP (this was in the 1950s) of "Pictures at an Exhibition". We heard the work twice. The first time Mr. Ullenberg played the work section by section with his detailed commentary and opportunities for questions. The second time, he played the work in its individual sections but without the commentary. For the test, Mr. Ullenberg played short sections and required us to identify the part of the work from which they came. It was all done both with a sense of humor and with drama. I will never forget it.

Mr. Ullenberg enhanced to an immeasurable degree my budding love of music. I remember him often, but no more so than in finding and hearing this new CD introduction to the life and music of Mussorgsky in the "Great Composers in Words and Music", a valuable new project on the Naxos label. While nowhere near as effective as the live introduction to Mussorgsky that Mr. Ullenberg gave his class many years ago, this CD captures something of Mussorgsky's spirit and music. It reminded me of the schooldays experience with Mussorgsky and Mr. Ullenberg.

The CD, as are others in the series, is arranged in alternating tracks of narration and music. The musicologist Davina Caddy wrote the script for the CD which receives an expressive reading from the narrator, Nicholas Boulton. Boulton's narration alternates with brief selections of Mussorgsky's music. One of the selections is from Mikail Glinka (1804 -- 1857), known as the father of Russian music, while the remaining selections explore the music of Mussorgsky himself.

The narrative sections of the CD discuss Mussorgsky's life, including his association as a young man with a group of composers, "The Five" dedicated to creating a unique Russian form of classical music. Mussorgsky was regarded as a gifted, if a personally odd and eccentric member of this group. Mussorgsky graduated from a military academy but resigned his position to devote himself to music. He supported himself along the way with various government jobs. His life was plagued by alcoholism and depression. His music was controversial in his day and remains so. It has been reworked, for its alleged deficiences, most famously by Maurice Ravel in his orchestral version of "Pictures at an Exhibition" and by other composers as well. Many modern music lovers and scholars want, rightly so, to go back to Mussorgsky's own version of his compositions.

The musical tracks on this CD follow the development of Mussorgsky's compositions from his early, more conventional works, through his more unique music where he developed a harsh, realistic style of Russian composition. The selections are taken from Mussorgsky's great opera "Boris Gudunov" from his orchestral work "Night on Bald Mountain", through his songs, including his most famous song collection, the "Songs and Dances of Death", and from other works as well, including several unfinished compositions. There are also, of course, several selections from "Pictures at an Exhibition". The narrative sections on the CD provide helpful commentary on the music.

This CD taught me about Mussorgsky and reminded me of the music he wrote that I have come to know and made me want to hear his music that I still don't know. The CD offers an overview of Mussorgsky for new and experienced listeners alike.

But by far the main appeal of this CD for me was in reminding me of my early experience with Mussorgsky and of Mr. Ullenberg's introduction to him in our music appreciation class. There simply was no substitute for the way he presented Mussorgsky and "Pictures at an Exhibition" together with music of many other composers. Music, Mussorgsky, and Mr. Ullenberg have stayed with me as inspirations through life.

William Carlos William
New Directions Publishing
9780811212984, $17.95, paperback

Revisiting Paterson

I first read William Carlos Williams's (1883 -- 1963) long poem "Paterson" about forty years ago when I was taken both with city life and with the possibility of combining an active, demanding career with a life of creativity and art. (Williams was a physician as well as a poet.) Williams's poem is in five books published separately in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958 and is set in the once thriving industrial city of Paterson, New Jersey. The poem's main character also is named Paterson. Book 3 of "Paterson" won the 1950 National Book Award for Poetry.

The memory of "Paterson" long stayed with me, and it 2017 I couldn't wait to see the Jim Jarmusch directed film which, as is the poem, is set in Paterson New Jersey and features a character named Paterson, played by Adam Driver. Paterson drives a bus through the streets of Paterson, lives a life of routine, and is a poet in the style of Williams and his language of the everyday. Paterson and his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) combine the struggles of life with love and with efforts to create and to find meaning in the everyday, The film suggests the presence of art in daily life for those who look. The movie "Paterson" is replete with allusions to Williams's poem. Williams would have loved it.

I thought of both the poem and the movie recently when reading a friend's review of the poem. I watched the film again, and I struggled with and reread "Paterson" for the first time in many years. The poem and its themes have stayed in my memory but the specifics are difficult. The book is a collage. Sections of Williams's poetry in its long, broken free verse lines alternate with prose passages. The prose passages include materials from the city of Paterson's long history dating to Alexander Hamilton's founding of the city as a center for industry and even before. There are also extensive prose passages about daily life in Paterson and about Williams's relationships with other people, including women and other poets seeking advice or help. Among these poets is a young Allen Ginsberg. The book has a contrapuntal structure as the sections of poetry alternate with and comment upon the prose passages. It can also be intense and obscure.

Paterson is a walker; the book takes him to the celebrated Great Falls on the Passaic River, which was the source of the city's industrial energy and to the adjacent parks where he wanders and observes. Paterson also wanders through the city streets and rides the bus and reflects on the city's history and its industry in silks, weapons, and railroad manufacturing and the many labor strikes over the years. Paterson also reflects upon his own life, especially his relationships to women, love and sexuality in consummation and divorce, and upon his writing and its purpose.

As a modernist writer, Williams's motto was "no ideas but in things", a phrase which appears in "Paterson". The poem itself, the work of the imagination, is itself its own reality. The poem "Paterson" with its combination of city and person is its own subject. The poem shows how individual life and communal life, in the form of the city, are fused together in imagination. The individual Paterson comes to see and to love his life in terms of the city of Paterson.

I remember my struggles with the poem and why it has stayed with me over the years. I thought of the movie "Paterson" which in its quiet way captures something of the spirit of Williams' poem. I was grateful for the opportunity to revisit Paterson.

Selected Poems 1947--1995
Allen Ginsberg, author
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
9780060933760, $15.99, paperback

Revisiting Allen Ginsberg

Late in 2023, I reread Allen Ginsberg's great poem "Kaddish" after a long time away. I decided to read Ginsberg (1926 -- 1997) again and turned to his volume "Selected Poems: 1947 -- 1995". For many years, I have been fascinated by the Beats.

Ginsberg's "Selected Poems" commemorates his 70th birthday. The poet himself selected the poems to be included in the volume following consultation with his friends. He also wrote a valuable, brief "Apologia of Selection" which offers an overview of how Ginsberg saw the trajectory of his long practice of poetry. The volume also includes Ginsberg's explanatory notes on references in the poems together with many photographs. The volume includes selections from Ginsberg's work with the exception of the latest poems written just before his death and published in the collection "Death and Fame". In the final paragraph of the "Apologia" Ginsberg, I think accurately, describes the course of his poetic work. He writes:

"The original task was to 'widen the area of consciousness' make pragmatic examination of the texture of consciousness, even somewhat transform consciousness. In the last decade elements of meditative and poetic practice appear to merge. That's the inner structure or progression of this book."

This collection shows the arc of Ginsberg's poetry. He came to his best writing early with his most famous poems "Howl" (1955) and "Kaddish" (1959) and related works. Then, I find, there was a gradual decline as Ginsberg's work became more overtly political with its strong leftist bent and its criticism of the Vietnam War. Ginsberg became a figure of the American counterculture and became famous for his eccentric behavior even more so than for his poems. Still, his collection "The Fall of America" (1973) won the National Book Award for poetry. There are eloquent poems and passages throughout Ginsberg's work, but the collection on the whole is uneven. In the late poems in this volume, "Plutonian Ode" and "White Shroud", Ginsberg's voice attains peace and eloquence. It differs from the passion and long lines of the earlier poetry as Ginsberg meditates on his life, his impending death, his relationships to others and, most importantly, his spirituality and Buddhism.

The Beat movement was short, and Ginsberg outlived it. Many of the poems in this collection were written within the movement, and many look back on it with nostalgia. Ginsberg's relationships with and thoughts on Kerouac, Neal Cassady, William Burroughs, and Gregory Corso pervade this volume.

Ginsberg's poetic influences include Whitman, Shelly, William Carlos Williams, and, especially William Blake. As a student in the 1940's, Ginsberg had an epiphany i a vision of Blake which he included as "Psalm IV" in "Kaddish". It is worth quoting this poem for itself and for the light it casts on Ginsberg's poetry in general.

"Now I'll record my secret vision impossible sight of the face of God:
It was no dream. I lay broad waking on a fabulous couch in Harlem
having masturbated for no love, and read half naked an open book of Blake on my lap
Lo & behold! I was thoughtless and turned a page and gazed on the living Sun-flower
and heard a voice, it was Blake's, reciting in earthen measure:
the voice rose out of the page to my secret ear never heard before --
I lifted my eves to the window, red walls of buildings flashed outside, endless sky sad in Eternity
sunlight gazing on the world, apartments of Harlem standing in the universe --
each brick and cornice stained with intelligence like a vast living face --
the great brain unfolding and brooding in wilderness! -- Now speaking aloud with Blake's voice--
Love! though patient presence & bone of the body! Father ! thy careful watching and waiting over my soul!
My son! My son! the endless ages have remembered me! My son! My son!
Time howled anguish in my ear!
My son! My son! my father wept and held me in his dead arms."

Much of Ginsberg is in this poem -- the long lines, the sexuality, the emphasis on personal experience and sincerity, and the heavily spiritual tone of the work. Ginsberg varies emphasis throughout his poems. Many poems focus on sexual behavior, especially on Ginsberg's homosexuality. Ginsberg's sexual desire and loneliness combine with his feelings for America and with his spiritual growth. This seems to me the value and direction of Ginsberg's poetry. I feel it unfortunate that his work was muddled by popularity, by the 1960s counterculture, and by politics.

My reading of this volume was enhanced by a video published by the Library of Congress titled "Allen Ginsberg Reads his Poetry" recorded at the poet's home in New York City on April 29, 1988. In the video, Ginsberg reads. discusses, and sings some of the poems in his "Selected Poems". He also reads poems by Blake, Shelly, and W.C. Williams. Ginsberg's love for poetry and his unabashed enthusiasm shine through in this document and helped me appreciate him and his art.

Ginsberg will be remembered by his best work. This volume allows the reader to see Ginsberg's great poems as part of a whole and to place the work in its context.

E.L. Doctorow, author
Penguin Random House
9780812978186, $18.00, paperback

America's Storyteller

E.L. Doctorow's (1931 -- 2015) highly readable novels combine history, imagination, character development, a sense of time and place and beautifully controlled and paced writing. Doctorow's relatively early novel, "Ragtime" (1974) remains his best-known work. The book is a delight to read, moves with the feel of ragtime piano, and has a light happy surface. Yet the book combines many disparate threads and stories, a wealth of historical and fictional characters thrown together, and offers an unsettling vision of the United States at the turn of the century, c.1906. There is a complex, multi-layered vision at work here.

The story is told in the first person in the words of Young Boy, whose parents are Father, a successful manufacturer of fireworks and flags in New Rochelle, New York, and Mother, an increasingly frustrated housewife. Mother has a brother, referred to as "Mother's younger brother" who is infatuated with a notorious, (and historical) beauty and femme fatale of the day, Evelyn Nesbit, and who becomes an expert in the use of explosives in Father's fireworks business.

The story of this family slowly intertwines with that of a different American family -- Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from East Europe who at the beginning of the book is struggling as a silouette artist on Hester Street New York City, has young daughter, and Mameh, who through poverty and desperation has abandoned the family for a life of prostitution.

There is a third fictitious American intertwined in the story. Sarah is a young (18 years old) black woman who has a young child that come to live with Mother while Father is away exploring the North Pole with Peary. Mid-way in the novel, we meet the baby's father and Sarah's suitor, an older black man and a pianist named Coalhouse Walker. Coalhouse has studied ragtime with Scott Joplin. The book is redolent with Joplin's music including "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Wall Street Rag." Coalhouse, in his dignity and his violent rage, quickly becomes the chief protagonist of the book. Doctorow has resurrected the character of Coalhouse Walker; and as a much younger man he plays a prominent role in his most recent novel, "The March" (2005), a fictional retelling of Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolinas in the Civil War.

But these characters and their interlocking stories are only a part of "Ragtime". Doctorow threads their stories in stunningly with stories of historical figures from early 20th Century America. The characters we meet include the escape artist, Harry Houdini, the anarchist Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, Sigmund Freud, Theodore Roosevelt, Scott Joplin, Evelyn Nesbit, her cuckolded husband, Harry Thaw, and her lover, the architect Stanford White, and several others. Some of these people have prominent roles in the stories while others have cameo parts. But their personalities in virtually every case shine through Doctorow's prose.

For all the elan, rambunctiousness, and lyricism of the story, "Ragtime" presents a picture of a United States plagued by racism, poverty, and violence. The story pivots on Coalhouse Walker's attempts to assert his dignity and manhood in the face of a racial slur in New Rochelle. These efforts lead inexorably to violence and to destruction. The excitement, flow and complexity of the stories carry the reader along but the dark undertow is never absent.

I think Doctorow is at his best in his portrayals of New York City in all its aspects. I was particularly impressed with his portraits of his life in the tenements with Tateh and his daughters, his scenes of the powerful in New York, (J.P Morgan and his meeting with Henry Ford), and the ubiquitous and lovingly-portrayed Emma Goldman. Doctorow's feel for New York City comes through in this book and in many of his later novels, including "Billy Bathgate" and "City of God".

In its musicality, lightness, and depth, "Ragtime" is the work of a great American storyteller. It, and its author, are destined to become American classics.

Demon Copperhead
Barbara Kingsolver, author
Harper First Edition
9780063251922, $21.99, paperback

Storytelling In Appalachia

n 2023, for the first time in its history, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was shared by two novels: "Trust" by Hernan Diaz and "Demon Copperhead" by Barbara Kingsolver. Our book group has been reading the two novels in successive months: "Trust" last month and "Demon Copperhead" for February. It was challenging to read both novels together, to have the opportunity to discuss them in a group, and to review them.

The two books have widely different settings. "Trust" is set in New York City at around the time of the Great Depression and deals in large part with the worlds of high finance and high culture. The main character, Andrew Bevel, is a financier born to wealth who amasses still further riches during the course of the book. The book is told in conflicting narratives of the events it recounts by four different authors, including Bevel himself and his wife Mildred, also a product of the upper-class.

"Demon Copperhead" is set in the early 21st Century, largely in Lee County, Virginia and in other sections of Appalachia. The country is poor, rural, and in the midst of a consuming opioid and drug epidemic. The story is a coming-of -age novel told in the first person by its narrator from his birth through early adulthood. As the title suggests, the novel makes extensive allusions to Charles Dickens's great novel, "David Copperfield".

I have had some experience with Appalachia which stoked my interest in this book. My late wife spent a great deal of her childhood in Letcher County, Kentucky and I learned a great deal from her about life in the area, particularly the coal mining and the poor farming. Several vacations took us through parts of Appalachia, including a trip to Letcher County and its towns. This trip took us through the portion of western Virginia in which Demon Copperhead grew up. On another vacation, we spent time at Hungry Mother State Park in western Virginia and its environs. Hungry Mother plays a prominent role in the book as Demon Copperhead stops there with some companions in the middle of a failed journey by car to see the Atlantic Ocean. In the book, Copperhead has a lifelong fascination with the sea which he has never seen. It was good to be reminded in Kingsolver's novel of Appalachia and of places I have seen including Hungry Mother State Park.. I also was reminded of some reading on Appalachia, including Horace Kephart's classic study "Our Southern Highlanders" (1913) which offers a different picture of the region that does Kingsolver in her novel.

The story Demon Copperhead has to tell is unremittingly harsh, beginning with his birth to a poor, drug-addicted young woman, abandoned by her husband who subsequently dies. The book follows Demon through his many misadventures and journeys through cruel foster homes through a road trip he takes at the age of 11 to find his grandmother, and through his life in a small Virginia town where he briefly becomes a star on the football team. With a serious knee injury which does not receive proper treatment, Demon becomes addicted to opioids. The story is full of squalor. Yet, Demon has a sharp mind, great powers of observation, and an ability to rise above his many difficulties. He also has artistic talent. The book follows him through good times and bad as he tries to make something of his life.

This lengthy novel features a large cast of characters, some of whom accompany Demon Copperhead throughout most of the story. Many of the characters are sharply and well-drawn while there may be too many of them to follow easily. The length of the novel also makes it lag in places. The strongest parts of the books are the many descriptive passages of Appalachia, its places and its people.

Barbara Kingsolver was raised in Appalachia and still calls it home. She writes with obvious love and knowledge of the area. She is also painfully attuned to its many problems, including its chronic poverty, lack of opportunity, and, in recent years the opioid and drug epidemics. Kingsolver also writes with a strong sense of injustice and of the way Appalachia and its people are often perceived as hillbillies. The book has a sense of polemic and of criticism for the condescension Kinsgsolver finds directed at Appalachia and for the broader country for turning a blind eye to the poverty and addiction plaguing the region. Some of this is overdone and detracts from the novel.

With its sad themes, the book is saved by its depictions of places and people, and by Demon Copperhead's perceptive writing his humor, and by his efforts to rise when he is down. I came away from the book not with polemic but with a greater appreciation for Appalachia and its people than I had during our family vacations of long ago. I would love to retrace my steps and visit the region again.

Robin Friedman

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Crazy for Trying
Joni Rodgers
Westport Lighthouse Books
9798985549409, $15.00

Crazy for Trying is a bit of a genre-bending novel: coming of age meets women's fiction meets feminism meets western romance. I enjoyed it very much.

Tulsa Bitters leaves San Francisco after the death of Andrea Firestein, Tulsa's 1970s lesbian-feminist-activist mother's death and the demise of Tulsa's relationship with an artist. She moves to Montana, an abrupt change from the liberality of California, Paris, New York, and other ritzy places she's lived. An avid bookworm and a bit of a loner, she's seemingly a poor fit in the small Montana town. She finds a job at the local radio station and, as the first female, faces hard core misogyny there. She lives a meager existence on this minimum-wage job. A nighttime caller into her radio program sparks a return to life.

Crazy for Trying has considerably more depth than the average romance, which I found particularly enchanting. The role of music cannot be understated, and the prose is scattered with lines from country music (Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson) and many folk and rock and rolls music references (Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Janis Ian, the Beatles) and songs ("Wooly Bully", "Devil with a Blue Dress", "Uncle Albert"). As Tulsa is a bibliophile, there are also lots of references to poetry and literature (Robert Browning, William Wordsworth). The blend of is intoxicating. The romance is definitely secondary to the coming of age story but with the twist of a May-December type romance. Rodgers displays a deep affinity for the Montana landscape and its inhabitants and for ranch life which, as a Texas girl, I always delight in.

Becoming Gandhi: My Experiment Living the Mahatma's 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times
Perry Garfinkel
Sounds True
9781683646921, $27.99

Having been interested in Gandhi and India since my twenties and having read a good deal about him, I was eager to read Becoming Gandhi. The author and I are roughly the same age, being in our twenties during the 1970s and seem to have similar thoughts regarding the Viet Nam war and American life in general at that time and to have significant concerns about the viability of the human race at a time when our society seems to be moving more toward violence and lack of common decency.

The book is listed under "Gandhi," "Religious Leader Biographies" and "Personal Transformation Self-Help" by Amazon, and I found the book to be a hodge-dodge of these classifications as well as a bit of a memoir. He winnows Gandhi's teaching down to six points and tries to implement them in his own life. These are:

1. Truth
2. Nonviolence
3. Vegetarianism
4. Simplicity of Life
5. Faith
6. Celibacy

Journalist Perry Garfinkel spends three years traveling the world examining how well Gandhi's ideals have held up in the present. He traces the path of Gandhi through India, England, and South Africa and talks about his accomplishments and even his flaws. He discusses his life and death by assassination on January 30, 1948, shortly after Indian gained independence from Britain. Garfinkel discusses at length the Indian words for the six points above and their meaning, so to a certain extent, this is Indian Philosophy for Dummies. There is some discussion of what Garfinkel tries to do with these precepts in his own life, but not enough to actually guide others and lacking the ups and downs and ah, ha! moments one expects from what could have been a fascinating memoir. I was left with rather ambivalent feelings about the book, it being more and less than I expected.

A Moth to Flame
Joe Clifford
Square Tire Books
9781960725103, $22.99

I've read most of Joe Clifford's works and found this to be his best so far. He tells the story of two sisters: Jess, the elder, who had been found dead at the bottom of a ravine twenty-five years earlier, and Lydia, the younger, now an investigator for the coroner's department.

Lydia and her family are somewhat estranged; her mother always preferred Jess and feels her death was Lydia's fault. Helping her deal with this familial angst is her professional mentor, Maureen Gearon, who's also grooming Lydia for a promotion.

As Lydia investigates a new murder, she realizes the woman's cause of death was a broken neck with a fractured hyoid bone - just like her sister's. She finds further clues when she discovers a true-crime YouTube channel hosted by Shane Elliot, a former high school classmate. On air he reveals that Jess's death wasn't an accident. The local police department, with Jess's former boyfriend and current police chief, seems trapped in a web of lies. His father, the former police chief, did an inadequate job of investigation possibly because his son was a suspect in the murder.

This is an action-packed read with an unusual ticking bomb: a wild fire ravaging the area around Lydia's family home. An excellent read.

Mornings in Jenin
Susan Abulhawa
Bloomsbury Adult
9781608190461, $19.99

During the recent upsurge in hostilities between Israel and Palestine, I stumbled across Mornings in Jenin by the American-Palestinian author, Susan Abulhawa. After reading its heart-wrenching words and being moved to tears many times, I placed it on my keep-forever books next to The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Mornings in Jenin is the story of Palestine seen through the lives of a single family, four generations of which are entrenched in the Jenin refugee camp by Israelis in 1948. The family was forcibly removed from the village of Ein Hod, their ancestral home, where forty generations before them had grown olives and citrus. The language is lush, powerful, and I highlighted many terrific lines that spoke to my heart. The story is told in first and third persons, and the story unfolds and folds in multiple iterations as memories so often do.

As Americans, we have for too long seen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict primarily from the point of view of Israel, and this has clearly a heavily-sanitized version of events. This novel highlights Israeli atrocities that have been on-going for decades. It is ironic that, after being subjected to the Holocaust, Israelis are perpetuating similar hate crimes and genocidal activities.

Certainly I am able to see both sides of this conflict and acknowledge the need for both a Jewish and a Palestinian state. One of the best lines I found in the novel was: "For if life had taught her anything, it was that healing and peace can begin only with acknowledgment of wrongs committed."

Burma Sahib: A Novel
Paul Theroux
Mariner Books
9780063297548, $30.00

I've read several of Paul Theroux's nonfiction books (having just finished The Last Train to Zone Verde), primarily travelogues with deep insights into his various journeys, but this was my first foray into his fiction. I was delighted that he carries through with his usual marvelous depictions of people and places foreign to most readers, in this case Burma of the early 20th century. In Burma Sahib, he fictionalized the life of George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984. The story follows the primary character, Eric Arthur Blair, a quiet, standoffish, nineteen-year-old graduate of Eton who leaves his home and parents in England and goes to Burma to be part of the British police there. He spends most of his sea voyage there reading. On arrival in Burma, he's on probation and is transferred hither and yon because of his patchy performance. He never fits in. Over time, he becomes sympathetic to the Burmese and comes to realize that due to the cruelty of the British rules, the abject poverty of the locals, the exploitation of the land and the people, the British Empire is doomed. At length, when he returns home on medical leave, belly-up on the heels of a scandal, he drops out of society and researches the depths of London.

Theroux manages to show the gradual change in Blair's personality as he sweats in Burma. The depth of personality and personal growth are well-demonstrated throughout. Equally impressive are Theroux's in-depth views of Burma and the various substations where Blair is stationed. Each spot has its own personality. Having lived in Asia for a time, I can attest that even one hundred years later, those shades of colonialism remain deeply imbedded.

The Frame-Up
Gwenda Bond
Del Rey
9780593597736, $18.00

I got this book thinking it was a heist story. I enjoyed it, although I didn't expect the fantasy aspect. Dani Poissant a superb artist, manipulated into becoming an art forger and accomplice to her mother, Maria, a world-famous art thief, both of whom have magical abilities. Maria can persuade people to do her bidding; Dani can imbue her forgeries with qualities that make them appear to be genuine. At a vulnerable age, Dani is again manipulated by the FBI into turning her mother in, resulting in her mother's imprisonment. Ten years later, Dani is approached by the villainous Archer, her mother's former lover, who tries to manipulate her into stealing a painting he wants held in Fort Knox type private gallery. The ticking clock: Dani has one week to accomplish this goal.

There are recurrent themes of childhood neglect and emotional abuse. Dani is thrown out of her community and must exist on her own at a relatively young age. Although the cover has a lot in common with current covers of contemporary romances, this is not a romance. There are hints of a potential romance with Brad, the young man who inherited the gallery, as well as with Elliott, a young man Dani thought would run away with her after the debacle with Maria, but who he fails to show up at their rendezvous. Neither of these guys get enough interaction with Dani to make their romance potential believable. Also, Dani's "found family" wasn't quite believable either.

Overall, a fun read. Not sure the magical elements did much other than serving as shortcut to the real work of staging an art heist.

Return to Lerici
Rachel Dacus
Independently Published
9798869909732, $13.99

Return to Lerici is the second of a so-far two book series, continuing the story of the Greene sisters begun in The Invisibles. Half-sisters Elinor and Saffron are bound by a father who abandoned them as he pursued a near-infinite series of infidelities. After being involved in an explosion and nearly dying, Elinor has settled in their family home in Lerici, Italy, which is sweetly haunted by the ghost of Percy Bysshe Shelley who drowned in the ocean nearby. Family dynamics postpone Elinor's wedding to her lover, Tonio, as the family reunites to help their mother, Betsy, deal with cancer. While undergoing treatment, Betsy obsesses with finding her husband's child, listed on the birth certificate only as "Baby Boy" so she can reunite their family. The family must decide whether to take the "new" brother into the fold if and when they find him.

Dacus writes convincingly about family and travel with a touch of supernatural. The emotions of the characters ring true and are complex enough to be truly human. I've spent time in nearby La Spezia on the western coast of Italy so can attest to the accuracy of her descriptions of Lerici. She very much captures the expatriate experience of living abroad.

The Zanzibar Chest: A Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands
Aidan Hartley
Grove Press; Reprint edition
9780802125859, $17.00

The Zanzibar Chest was absolutely fascinating. It's terrific reading, so good it was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. It is far more than a mere memoir or travelogue. Hartley was born in Kenya and still resides there, so he can write about events on on the continent of Africa with a legitimacy an outsider could not. He actually blends three tales here: the history of his family and its generations of participation in colonial Britain; his own life from his idyllic childhood in Africa, schooling in England, and culminating with the gut-wrenching horrors of his days as a war correspondent covering Africa for Reuters news agency; plus his efforts to research the final days of Peter Davey, his father's best friend, whose diaries Hartley's father passed to his son.

As a journalist, he covered the world's hotspots such as Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and Croatia during the 1990s, a decade marked by violence and genocide. He witnessed inhumanity on a grand scale, much as Romeo Dallaire (UN commander during the Rwandan Genocide) describes in his memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil. I wish I had read it before I completed my own novel about genocide; it would have been a valuable resource. Harley gives a truthful picture of journalism and news networks, including how much of what is reported is falsified or twisted to draw in readers. He also shows the heroism as well as the flaws and foibles of his colleagues and depicts their heavy use of alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and other drugs such as heroin, codeine, and kat.

The reader will learn some things about journalism and the news networks, or perhaps have their worst suspicions confirmed: what is reported as fact is often untrue or twisted by the network in order to draw viewers or readers. He admits, though, that what he and his colleagues saw and begged to have publicized (such as the Rwandan Genocide) was largely glossed over. We saw this ourselves in American journalism in 1994 when Tanya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and O.J. Simpson received more publicity that the happenings in Rwanda did. I admit to having to read this is small chunks - I could only take so much horror at a time - but the book was well worth surviving.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

The Arena: One Woman's Story
Carol Chumney
Carol Chumney LLC
9781735342825, $32.98, HC, 608pp

Synopsis: In 1920, American women secured the right to vote. Tennessee was the 36th state necessary to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment passed by only one vote in the state house.

Despite a hundred years of women's suffrage, there has never been a woman governor of Tennessee.

The portraits of 46 men who served as mayor hang on the wall in the Memphis city hall. To date, a female has never been elected mayor of Memphis.

With the publication of "The Arena: One Woman's Story" Carol J. Chumney shares her experiences as a woman in the political arena.

In 1991, she gained election to the Tennessee state legislature at the age of 29. She passed landmark childcare reform, as reported in TIME magazine and the New York Times. As a veteran state legislator, experienced trial attorney, and Memphis city councilwoman, in 2007, she came within seven points of being elected the first woman mayor of Memphis. She went on to expose election security vulnerabilities and take the fight for reform to the U.S. Congress and U.S. Supreme Court.

The glass ceiling is the invisible but very real barrier that keeps women from attaining higher positions in local, state, and federal governance despite their qualifications or achievements. Chumney's story is a true insider's look at local and state politics that exposes this barrier. As Carol Chumney declares -- "You first have to see it to defeat it."

Editorial Note: A substantial combination of personal memoir and local political history, "The Arena: One Woman's Story" is a very special and unreservedly recommended acquisition for personal, professional, community, and college/university library Political Science collections and supplemental Women's Studies/History curriculum lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Arena: One Woman's Story" is also available in a paperback edition (Lady Justice Publishing, 9781735342801, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

Editorial Note: Carol J. Chumney ( is an attorney in Memphis, Tennessee. She served thirteen years in the Tennessee state house, earning numerous awards. Chumney served four years as a Memphis city councilwoman, standing up against pension and spending abuses by officials. She made valiant efforts to be elected county mayor in 2002 and Memphis mayor in 2007 and 2009. Memphis, TN has never had a woman mayor. She is now a leading attorney taking the fight for election security to the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress.

Peggy's Puzzles - Volume One
Peggy Adler
BearManor Media
9798887711249, $32.00, HC, 132pp

Synopsis: In many fields of accomplishment there is one name that stands out above all the rest. In baseball, there's the home-run king Babe Ruth. In invention, there's Thomas Edison. In composing military marches it's John Philip Sousa. And in the invention of puzzles - it's Sam Loyd.

Sam Loyd was born in Philadelphia in 1841. He began his brilliant career at the age of 14 and his puzzles were eventually published in newspapers and magazines all over the United States. After he died in 1911, his son, Sam Loyd, Jr., continued the puzzle columns under his father's name. In 1914, Sam Loyd, Jr. published 5000 of their puzzles under the title, Cyclopedia of Sam Loyd Puzzles.

"Peggy's Puzzle - Volume One" is divided into four distinct parts. Part One, is comprised of revised Sam Loyd puzzles that are suitable for children as well as adults and were in Peggy Adler's original puzzle book, "The Adler Book of Puzzles and Riddles", first published in 1962 by New York's John Day Company. At that time, the New York Times called the book "A great wit-sharpener for the whole family". And today, it still is just that, for the puzzles and their illustrations remain the same. Only the names of the characters that populate the puzzles have been changed in this edition to reflect Adler's love of Old Time Radio, Movies and TV.

Part Two of the book is comprised of brand new mathematical games and puzzles, created by Adler for the 1963 sequel to her 1962 book and Part Three, of Geography Puzzles from Adler's 1979 book of that name. And just as in Part One, the names of the puzzles' characters have all been changed to reflect her love of Old Time Radio, Movies and TV.

Last, but certainly not least, is the book's Part Four, Games My Father Taught Me, which is comprised of recreational, mathematical games Adler learned as a child from her late father, renowned, prolific author and mathematician, Irving Adler.

Critique: Offering hours of fun, unreservedly recommended, and of particular interest to fans of puzzles and quizzes, it should also be noted for personal and family collections that "Peggy's Puzzle - Volume One" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798887711232, $22.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.00).

Editorial Note: In 1976, an editor at New York's Franklin Watts Publishing Company contacted Peggy Adler to say that the United States was going to be "metricized" in 1981. She was asked to write and illustrate a book that taught the metric system through mathematical games and puzzles. Not knowing anything about the metric system, her father, Irving Adler (a well-known author and mathematician), came for a visit and gave her a one day crash course. The book, titled Metric Puzzles, was published in 1977 and was followed, shortly thereafter, by Math Puzzles. Despite excellent reviews and on-going sales, these two, along with my puzzle books published in the early 1960s, were put out-of-print in the mid-1980s. Happily, those earlier puzzle books were republished by BearManor Media as Peggy's Puzzles - Volume One.

Peggy's Puzzles - Volume Two
Peggy Adler
BearManor Media
9798887711881, $32.00, HC, 144pp

Synopsis: Illustrated by B/W pen drawings, "Peggy's Puzzles - Volume Two" by author and artist Peggy Adler is comprised of fifty-two carefully developed, original, educational, and entertaining games that feature mathematical computations, anagrams, and word puzzles -- each of which are specifically and impressively designed to teach the metric units for determining area, volume, and temperature. Readers of all ages are challenged to determine measurements for several children and three hedgehogs who take vitamin C, pick mushrooms, travel, and more!

Critique: Exceptional, original, challenging, and just plain fun, "Peggy's Puzzles - Volume Two" showcases Peggy Adler's abilities to construct well-conceived exercises which teach an American readership about the importance of metric relationships through discovery and analysis. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in math-based games and puzzles, it should also be noted that "Peggy's Puzzles - Volume Two" is also available in a paperback edition (9798887711881, $22.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.00).

Editorial Note: Peggy Adler spent eight years as a Clinton, CT Police Commissioner (2005-2013); served on Clinton's Design Review Board (2000-2007); Historic District Commission (2001-2006; 2017- present); and Charter Revision Commission (1997-98 & 2003-04). For Clinton's Department of Parks & Recreation I coached 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade girls softball (2008-2014) and for seven years did the publicity for the Clinton Rotary's annual Cancer Relief Fund Drive Walk-a-thon. Previously she had also served on the Board of The Arts Council of Greater New Haven; Planned Parenthood of Greater New Haven; Shoreline Youth Theater; the Madison Arts & Science Council -- and additionally, spent eight years as the program coordinator for the New England Chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, serving simultaneously on their Board of Directors and three of those years as its Board's Chairman.

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Responsible Business Decision Making
Annemieke Roobeek, author
Jacques de Swart, author
Myrthe van der Plas, author
Kogan Page Inc.
9781398612303, $159.00, HC, 376pp

Synopsis: Now in a newly updated and expanded second edition, "Responsible Business Decision Making: Strategic Impact Through Data and Dialogue" is co-authored by the team of Annemieke Roobeek, Jacques de Swart, and Myrthe van der Plas, and provides a practical guide for how organizational leaders can make smart responsible business decisions. It offers a framework that eliminates internal bias, aligns ethical values with business goals and draws on diverse case studies.

"Responsible Business Decision Making" will answer questions such as: how can dialogue and data optimize decision-making? How can ESG goals be translated into concrete manageable actions? Which decisions best suit the strategic objectives of the organization?

This new edition has also been updated to offer an increased focus on dialogue and data-driven decision making and new coverage on ESG, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), digital transformation and the Raworth's Doughnut Economy framework. Readers will benefit from many new international cases covering topics such as ESG investment, SDG impact measurement and sustainability transformation.

Critique: These newly published second edition of "Responsible Business Decision Making: Strategic Impact Through Data and Dialogue" is an extraordinary and critically important study that will be of immense interest and practical value to corporate executives, business managers, and entrepreneurs. While an invaluable and highly recommended pick for personal, professional, community, corporate, and college/university library Business Management/Decision Making collections and supplemental MBA curriculum studies lists, it should be noted that new second edition is also readily available in paperback (9781398612280, $41.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $33.59).

Editorial Note #1: Annemieke Roobeek is Professor of Strategy and Transformation Management at Nyenrode Business Universiteit (Netherlands), former Professor at the University of Amsterdam and CEO of MeetingMoreMinds and GrwNxt. She is an experienced non-executive director in international operating companies and governmental advisory boards.

Editorial Note #2: Jacques de Swart is a Partner within PwC, where he is responsible for the Data Analytics group, and Professor of Applied Mathematics at Nyenrode Business University . He has over 30 years of modelling experience.

Editorial Note #3: Myrthe van der Plas is responsible for the Data Analytics Group within the Public Sector of PwC Consulting in the Netherlands. She is founder of Lakisama Foundation and was shortlisted in the Dutch UN SDG Pioneer programme of 2022. She also lectures on Strategic Decision Making at several universities. She is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Trilogy: Three True Stories of Scoundrels and Schemers
Peggy Adler
BearManor Media
9798887713717, $30.00, PB, 102pp

Synopsis: In 1991, Peggy Adler was retained by self-proclaimed CIA agent, arms dealer and money launderer, Richard Brenneke, to co-author his autobiography. She soon discovered evidence in his files contradicting claims regarding his presence at October Surprise conspiracy meetings and went on to out Brenneke as a con artist in a February 1992"Village Voice".

Adler then researched a series of additional articles for the "Voice", which went on to prove that the so-called "October Surprise" was a hoax.

In mid-1992, upon learning that the United States House of Representatives had created a Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in1980, which would be investigating whether or not there actua"October Surprise", she turned over to them the seventy cartons of documents she'd hauled east from Brenneke's home in Portland, Oregon, in order to write his memoirs.

Subsequently, she worked as a consultant to the Task Force and assisted in drafting and editing the Brenneke section of their final report.

Chapter one of "Trilogy: Three True Stories of Scoundrels and Schemers" recounts the Brenneke story, from 1973 forward, including her own odyssey with this scoundrel.

Chapter two reveals how Oliver North and Richard Secord's Iran-Contra pal, Albert Hakim, was well aware that it was possible to get money out of a Swiss bank account without ever being a signatory -- for he'd facilitated just that, years before.

And Chapter three traces Roger Ailes relationship to the Willie Horton commercial that helped sink George Dukakis' hope for the presidency.

Critique: A simply fascinating read for anyone with an interest in criminology, governmental scandals, and social science research projects, "Trilogy: Three True Stories of Scoundrels and Schemers" is a fully detailed and dramatic reveal of a once national alarming scandal that in this era of Trump had faded from the collective memory of the country. While a unique and highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and college/university library collections, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers that "Trilogy: Three True Stories of Scoundrels and Schemers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.00).

Editorial Note: Peggy Adler is the author of "Peggy's Puzzles", Volumes One and Two, (BearManor Media, 2023),"Pallenberg Wonder Bears - From the Beginning" (BearManor Media, October 2022); the pictorial history "Images of America CLINTON" (Arcadia Publishing, 2019); five titles for New York City publishers (The John Day Company & Franklin Watts). She has also illustrated two dozen books and provided art for the Bronx Zoo; the Humane Society of the United States; Little, Brown & Company; the Journal of Theoretical Biology; the Journal of Algebra; the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and World Scientific Publishing.

Additionally, She organized and hosted the 2015 Edgar Rice Burroughs Bibliophile Convention (aka Dum Dum), which ran for four days in Clinton, Connecticut and was attended by members of the Burroughs' family and the staff of ERB, Inc, along with authors and illustrators of Burroughs related books and almost 100 bibliophiles, who came from all over North America to celebrate his genius.

In 2019, her book "Images of America Clinton" won a Literary Award Competition sponsored by the Connecticut Society of Genealogists as Best Research Publication and two years earlier, Marquis Who's Who presented her with their Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous honors include the 2001 General Richard G. Stilwell Award by the Association of Former Intelligence Officers for her work with their New England Chapter.

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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